By Bianca Silva
A rape was reported on the evening of Wednesday 28 February. It was alleged to have occurred on Prospect Field during a Rhodes sports club’s cheese and wine.
Inspector Coetzee at the Grahamstown police station was able to confirm that a case was opened and that the incident was alleged to have taken place at 10:45pm.
Sources who would prefer not to be named told Activate that during the cheese and wine they found a woman sitting on the grass on Prospect fields in a fetus position. Initially she couldn’t speak and then she started crying. It took the informants 45 minutes to find out from her what had happened; she said she had been raped.
The rape survivor was reported to have kept repeating “I thought they were my friends.” Three men had accompanied her to the cheese and wine. The sources said that the survivor did not want her mother to find out about the alleged rape and just wanted to go home. She was persuaded however to report the incident. The sources told Activate that CPU had arrived on the scene but left when they found out that the survivor was no longer a Rhodes student. The informants took her to Settlers hospital to be tested for HIV, but were uncertain about the results.
The sources explained that the survivor had been surrounded by people on the grass and that it was possible that most had just assumed she was drunk. They said that in situations such as this one shouldn’t just assume anything, but rather ask what has happened.
The Head of Sport at Rhodes said that the victim appeared intoxicated when she arrived at the event. “I saw them coming in, three men and I think two females” he said and explained that when she arrived she couldn’t stand on her feet and had to sit down. No one knew who she was, and they thought she was possibly friends with one of the members of the sports club. He explained that she was sitting inside and then moved outside. He later saw some people speaking with her.
The Head of Sport said that he had been unaware of the rape allegations until he saw CPU arriving at the cheese and wine and then went to enquire. He received a report the following morning that the victim had been taken to hospital and that a case had been opened. “If she went anywhere without being examined, she’s got nothing” he explained. He said he hasn’t heard anything further. He explained that she was allegedly a student last year, but this has not been confirmed. He said, “We weren’t sure how to handle it because she was so drunk, so we followed procedure”. He said “the one chap had a flip-file or notebook, from that we assumed they were students”. When the survivor was lead to the car the people she had arrived with were gone. “She hadn’t seemed distraught or anything inside the clubhouse. That is why we didn’t suspect anything, just that she was drunk. She had been dancing with others in the club” he said.
“The university takes the matter extremely seriously and will be putting out a formal statement about safety to augment what has be said in the past” said Larissa Klazinga, assistant to the Dean of Students. She assured Activate that they would keep the students informed about what is happening.
The university was unaware of the incidence prior to questioning. Gordon Barker, the university prosecutor, said that they would be investigating and that he was particularly concerned about whether or not the survivor’s company had been students. He explained that in the event that the survivor’s assailant was a student, a university case would need to be opened in addition to the police case. Klazinga said “If people have issues they should notify Administration.” She explained that if something is reported to the police or to Settlers hospital it is not automatically reported to the university.
The sources who found the survivor commented on personal safety measures. One said “You think you’re safe because it’s a university club thing, but that doesn’t mean that people who aren’t students won’t go” said one of the anonymous sources. They said that people must be aware, and be careful even with friends. “People are so blasé about walking around at night alone” said one of the sources.
Dr Iain L’Ange, the director of residential operations and former acting dean of Students said “a significant number of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. I appeal to female students to be very careful.” He said “that shouldn’t be how life should be but we don’t live in an ideal world, so please, please take care.” L’Ange appeals to students to be careful and to take necessary precautions. He said that Dean of Students, Professor De Klerk is committed to awareness and self-defense programs and appeals to the men on campus to realise that rape is not just a women’s problem.