By Bianca Silva, Jess Levy and Reyhama Mohamed
Three alleged rapes of Rhodes students have been reported over the last three weeks. Two of the incidents allegedly occurred in men’s residences on campus and a third reportedly in the bathrooms of Equilibrium on New Street.
The first incident reportedly occurred over the first weekend of May. In an official email the university reported that the victim was a first year student. The case has been reported to the university prosecutor, Gordon Barker, and is being investigated internally. The email placed the rape in the broader context of “acquaintance rape” and urged students who have been raped or assaulted to report it to the university through the Dean of Students Division.
Inspector Milanda Coetzer, SAPS spokesperson, confirmed the details of the second reported rape. The
alleged survivor went into the women’s bathrooms to “touch up her make up”. She heard a man’s voice
and was pushed into a cubicle where she was then allegedly raped at midnight on Saturday, May 12. The survivor was taken to Settlers Hospital and a case was filed with the police.
Coetzer urges anyone who has seen anything related to the incident to report it. She was unable to comment on whether the survivor was able to identify the accused. Coetzer emphasised the importance of reporting every case, although she said people in such situations are scared. “At least report it to someone. A rapist may become a serial rapist,” she said in reference to incidents going unreported.
The third rape occurred over the weekend after Rape Awareness Week. The Dean of Students Division informed the university of it in a top-list email. The alleged victim was a first year student. The incident allegedly took place inside a male residence room. Larissa Klazinga reported in the email: “It is a tragic reality that acquaintance rape is happening on this campus and that very many survivors are choosing not
to report their rapes because they fear retribution, complicated legal proceedings or other stigma associated with sexual violence.”
Barker was unable to comment about the first incident and was unaware of the details of the second as
it had been reported to the police station, which was investigating the accusations. Barker was able to
clarify the disciplinary process. If the accused are found guilty they will be excluded from the university.
It is up to the survivors to press charges with the local police, although they are not obliged to do so. A case is taken to trial within the university on the basis of a “balance of probabilities” explained Barker, whereas a court of law operates on the stricter criterion of “beyond any reasonable doubt”. The university does not require the victim to take a medical examination in order to file a case.
Barker chose two women colleagues to aid him with the case and investigation. The accused are entitled to external representation if they so wish. The disciplinary board, consisting of five fifth year law students, also offers students legal advice as a substitute to legal aid clinics. Following the outcome of the hearing, the results will be published with both the complainant and the accused’s names deleted.
Klazinga was unable to comment on the status of the investigation of the first incident, however she commented on rape in general. “No one rapes once; there may be a first time but then they become serial rapists.” Klazinga felt pornography plays a significant role in society in the way men understand sexual enounters. “You do not rape, you are a rapist,” said Klazinga and explained that rape is a behavioral pattern. “It’s like a lefthanded person – it’s what you are.”