This is an article I wrote for the CPS (Campus Protection Services) newsletter at UWC.
On the 26th of February 2013, the University held an event in response to the recent spate of violence against women in South Africa. The event was held in the main hall and was well-attended by both students and staff. This event highlighted the seriousness of these crimes.
However, the news statistics read by student volunteer Chanell Oliphant, as well as the opinion of many, contradicted the timing of this event. While lauded for their efforts, many have questioned why so many institutions are acting now. There were loud gasps from the audience when Oliphant read these statistics. Some of these include the number of unreported rapes, with only 1 in 20 being reported to police, with 147 women raped on a daily basis in South Africa. Does it end with a gasp, or will there be action from this shock?
After the event, audience members were asked to sign a pledge board with their ideas as to how to stop the violence against women in this country. But how many of them would go home and enact these pledges? One of the many problems with the issue of violence against women is the mistaken idea of power being lost by the individual, which then leads to shame. What others do in their individual lives is, of course, their business. However, the familiar case of only acting up when it hits too close to home has played out all too often in this country, and still not enough being done on a regular basis to change it. While the event hosted by the University, and even condemnation by President Jacob Zuma, was appreciated, it was too late for Anene Booysen and other persons who were victims to these crimes.
A bleak picture was painted when a staff member told me about how she witnessed a male student acting abusively towards his girlfriend on a Sunday morning on campus. The male student, when reacting violently to opposition from the staff member, threatened others too. This student is apparently well-known by other students and even security, which was called to the scene. The excuse given for not handling this case is that it was a “lover’s quarrel.” Protocol, it seems, is not clear in this case.
One of the many problems with violence against women is the number of unreported cases. It could be asked, where exactly is it safe? And whose job is it to keep others safe? Blaming the victim has become a popular theme which has been used by some, and not spoken out against enough by others. In speaking to students about this issue, an interesting case came up. On Friday, March 1st 2013, a student was accosted by a taxi driver at the Modderdam Road exit to get into his taxi. She chose to wait, and when she was grabbed by the driver and protested to be left alone, was slapped by him. A fight ensued and four other drivers approached. Two female students approached to intervene and that’s when the scuffle ended.
With this issue, it could be argued that the jurisdiction of campus security ends when a student leaves the gates of the University. But with a number of cases of abuse, both physical and sexual reported at an alarming rate, it’s safe to ask, where exactly is it safe?
<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>