UCT student left traumatised by campus doctor who ‘treated her like trash’ after alleged rape

By Pieter van Zyl
18 July 2017

The rape survivor told of the traumatic ordeal in a heartrending blog post

In her first year, she was allegedly raped by a mentor in her res on the campus of the University of Cape Town.

Desperate for help in the wake of the incident, she went to the office of Student Wellness – where she was allegedly reprimanded by the doctor on duty for being “late”.

In a heartrending blog post, the rape survivor tells of the traumatic ordeal.

“When I had gotten back to my room, after the violence had all ended, I went to shower to wash away all the shame, the guilt, the pain, his scent – and unfortunately I collapsed in the shower, I was unconscious for 45 minutes,” the young woman wrote anonymously on the blog under the heading Re-traumatised by Student Wellness.

The blog was started in April 2015 as a way for students to hit back at the “immense amount of silencing around the issues of discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault at UCT,” according to the site. “This is a platform to change that.”

In her post, dated 12 July, the student explains how she eventually realised she needed medical help.

“I was woken up by the coldness of the water. I decided I had to go see a doctor, I managed to get an appointment with Student Wellness, to see a doctor the next day.”

She arrived two minutes late for her appointment, she wrote, because she wasn’t sure exactly where on campus the centre was.

“The doctor had not even arrived as yet, but when he arrived he looked at me and told me that I was late, shouting, and he led me to his consultation room.

“He asked me what was wrong, I told him I fainted in the shower, and I was unconscious for 45 minutes, and at the time, my stomach was swollen and quite painful – this happens whenever I am under a lot of stress as I have a medical condition that is exacerbated by stress.

“And then I also reluctantly told him that I was raped the day prior. He looked at his watch and back at me, and he told me I have too many problems and I have to pick one for him to focus on. He told me that he doesn’t have time to attend to my issues particularly since I am late,” she claimed.

“He said he only has 15 minutes per student and that isn’t enough time for him to attend to all my complaints. He told me I just delayed him from a very important commitment he has after this consultation because I was late.

“He took my blood pressure and told me it was very low but there’s nothing he can do about that – he said I fainted because of stress and there’s no medication for that. Then he proceeded to tell me my time is up, and he needs to leave.

“And he said, ‘I understand you have a lot of problems’, so he said he will provide me with three free doctor’s appointments with him, within the next two weeks after he returns from a trip he had. I felt so invalidated and disrespected.

“After leaving his room, on my way out, I overheard him to speaking to a nurse about what he said, whilst I was busy settling my bill. The nurse comes to me and tells me, she can see from my folder that my complaint did not need a doctor and I should’ve just seen a nurse, and she proceeded to speak explicitly about what the doctor told her about me, and what she read from my folder.

“This conversation is happening in the waiting room, a full but quiet room, everyone heard her. I left student wellness still without HIV prophylaxis, STI meds or the pill, I left feeling worse than when I came.

“I couldn’t bring myself to putting myself in a situation where I could be invalidated again. So I went to the pharmacy and got the pill. I just had to sit and hope, I wouldn’t contract HIV.

“This year, I found out I contracted an incurable STI – HPV, and that I am high risk for developing cervical cancer. Because of that one doctor, who discarded of me like trash. No words can capture the trauma, I lived, and continue to carry with me.”

YOU contacted UCT for comment on the reported experience of a sexual assault survivor. This was their response:

“The University of Cape Town recognises the deeply traumatising effect rape and sexual violence have on individuals. We similarly appreciate the right and choice of a survivor to remain anonymous. The unfortunate reality is that when anonymous statements are made, it is extremely difficult to investigate the issues.

In general, the support to survivors of sexual violence at UCT has been good and has improved considerably. The University wishes to investigate all claims to the contrary, but without a complainant stepping forward it is very difficult to do so.

We are also concerned that these claims may deter others from utilising the services should they find themselves in a position where they need the support. So we appeal to the survivor to step forward so that UCT can properly assess the facts and take the necessary action.

UCT finds the account of events as detailed by the survivor on social media to be highly distressing. What would ordinarily have happened would have been for the matter to be reported, investigated and then disciplinary proceedings instituted against both the mentor and the doctor in question. UCT condemns incidents of sexual assault and speedily deals with such as soon as they are reported.

We also expect our staff at the Student Wellness Services to uphold the highest professional standards. Staff members have all received training and are expected to follow a protocol for the management of any patient who reports a sexual assault.

While respecting the right of the student concerned to remain anonymous, we would like to encourage the survivor to report this matter so that it can be handled in accordance with UCT’s internal channels as well as external legal proceedings.”

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