I’m sure you’ve seen just about hundreds of articles lately about sexual assault and rape in light of the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein, Ken Baker and even Kevin Spacey. And I’m sure you’d love to read about something other than the #MeToo campaign.
But I will keep writing these articles until crime statistics no longer say that around 110 rape cases were reported a day over the span of 8 months in 2016 in South Africa, and it's estimated that only 1 in 9 rape cases are actually reported.
As a university student, I am both appalled and frightened that statistics suggest 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime. Which means I have to be particularly cautious when walking alone on campus, because rape on campus is more common than most people think.
I mean, remember Brock Turner who was caught thrusting upon a barely conscious fellow student on campus at Stanford University? He was sentenced to 6 months and got off after serving half his sentence. The judge, Aaron Persky, felt a longer prison sentence might have a “severe impact” on his life.
And what about the numerous brave women on South African campuses who reported that male students have followed them into the female bathroom? "Reported" being the key word here as again, very few cases are reported to the police as victims often feel intimidated by their rapists and unable to open up about their experiences.
What can we do about rape on campus?
While it might not require SAPS to police campuses 24/7, here are a few initiatives employed by other campuses around the world, specifically at Australian universities:
- Specialist training to better equip university counsellors and staff members to assist victims of sexual harassment and assault.
- First responder training for staff members to address and assist victims living in res.
- 24/7 support lines to assist victims and survivors.
- A commitment to continue the Respect. Now. Always. awareness campaign.
- Programs for university students that teach the development of evidence-based respectful relationships.
While all these initiatives are vital in ensuring safer spaces for students on campuses, I feel it is essential that we focus on the last two points: teaching students mutual respect and understanding.
- Also read: Spotlight on rape of girls
The perpetuation of rape culture
In recent months the #EndRapeCulture campaign revealed just how bad the rape rate is on campuses across our country. And during the #3days4girls protests, students held placards reading “Men are trash” and changing signs reading “Don’t get raped” to “Don’t rape”, after 4 women were assaulted in 3 days at the University of the Western Cape last year.
Rape culture is a particular collective thinking in which, according to Everyday Feminism, “sexual assault, rape and general violence are ignored, trivialised, normalised, or made into jokes”.
Although we try to put preventative measures into place, telling women in res to lock their doors and students leaving campus to never walk alone, we aren’t doing enough to address the fact that we still live in a patriarchal society that’s teaching women to be scared instead of teaching men not to rape.
- Also read: A great way to teach our kids about consent
Forgive me if I'm being naive but I firmly believe that at university level you should be familiar by now with Section 12 of the Constitution that reads, “Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right to security in and control over their body.”
I also believe that both grown men and women have the capability to distinguish between right and wrong – because that’s essentially what it is. No man’s manhood should be so fragile that he cannot be told and taught right from wrong and learn to cope with rejection. No man should feel entitled enough to take what isn’t his.
Thus, while addressing the issue of rape on campus and requiring universities to employ various initiatives, the obvious solution is to end rape culture.
Because the “severe impact” on your life of a punishment for a crime you commit, is no more important than the severe impact you might have had on the life of someone you shamelessly victimised.
In fact, it’s only right. It’s warranted. It’s deserved.
- Will you raise your sons to become like Harvey Weinstein? Watch Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik respond
- Sex education: Why are our teen girls still being shamed?
- Dads respond to #MenAreTrash
Which initiatives do you think universities can and should employ to make campuses safer for students? Tell us by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish your comments.
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