It is worrisome sexual violation on campuses is ignored

The fact no arrest has been made in the alleged rape of Rhodes University student Khensani Maseko, who committed suicide at home in Johannesburg, shows there seems to be continued impunity for sexual violation in SA, according to the writer.
The fact no arrest has been made in the alleged rape of Rhodes University student Khensani Maseko, who committed suicide at home in Johannesburg, shows there seems to be continued impunity for sexual violation in SA, according to the writer.
Image: Instagram

Last week I wrote about sexual harassment in the workplace and I also commented briefly about sexual harassment on campuses.

Today I will expound on this calamity and how it differs so greatly from sexual harassment in the workplace. Students are not safe. But first, take a moment to remember Khensani Maseko, the Rhodes University student who committed suicide after allegedly being raped.

Nobody has been arrested and it seems nobody will be arrested. No word has been said about the alleged perpetrator either. Is it business as usual? And if so, why?

There seems to be continued impunity for sexual violation in SA. Perpetrators are easily let off the hook. Where is the anger?

The biggest problem as a nation may be that we forget so easily, perhaps to our own demise. Yesterday it was Khensani ... and tomorrow it will be your sister. Therefore, take a second and spare some thought to students who are not safe on campuses.

Do you still remember the report on the vice-chancellor of UniZulu, Professor Xoliswa Mtose, who allegedly "sabotaged" a rape investigation into a senior academic at the institution in a bid to protect him?

The report alleged that the university's version of events did not correspond with that of the victim, a student at the institution.

According to the university, "the family asked UniZulu vice-chancellor not to pursue or probe any further". This claim, however, was disputed by the family, who described it as senseless.

To date, we have not heard a word about how this matter was concluded. Is it business as usual for the alleged perpetrator and those who allegedly assisted him?

The framework policy on sexual violence in higher learning is open for comments. How many have taken time to make a contribution to this significant policy? I sometimes wonder if indeed our fight against sexual violation and abuse is honest or even understood. As I mentioned previously, sexual harassment in the workplace differs greatly from sexual harassment on campuses.

The research reveals that anywhere in the world, sexual harassment is an "issue of power". For example, on campus it is evident that a person of authority may threaten, coerce or intimidate a student to agree to sexual advances or risk reprisal.

Moreover, sexual violation in academia is not only a physical experience, it "carries with it both emotional and academic consequences", according to research. Students' responses to sexual violation are very complex and may affect other factors such as under-reporting and also increase the susceptibility of women in rape culture societies. Let's look at the UniZulu matter again.

Take note that one of the reasons sexual violation in academia is cause for concern is the fact that it is fraught with complexities that set it apart from sexual violation in the workplace, for example.

The matter in UniZulu illustrates these complexities. First, a senior academic allegedly raped a student, which raises issues of power, while the alleged direct involvement by the vice-chancellor in stifling the probe is also suggestive of a confluence of power.

The case furthermore illustrates the phenomenon of acquaintance rape, which is the most prevalent form among all rapes in academia, along with the complications associated with this particular form of rape. I have written extensively on acquaintance rape and the problems it presents.

But that said, I believe we should consider dealing with sexual violence systematically and moreover learn about the complexities in order to effectively manage this calamity as a society.

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