By Sian Cohen and Greg Aldridge
A male first year Rhodes University student was allegedly raped in the early hours of Sunday February 3. The student left a local pub in New Street and was accompanied by a group of men he had met during the evening. The student was then allegedly sexually assaulted on African Street on his way back to his residence. The incident has been reported to the South African Police and is currently under investigation. As of December 16 2007 the act of rape was recognised as a Common Law Offence in South Africa with the change to the Sexual Offences Bill. For the first time in South African history men can legally be recognised as rape survivors.
The incident has caused people to question rape awareness and safety on campus. “It is a tragic reality that rape does happen on this campus and that both men and women are at risk,” said Dean of Students Vivian De Klerk, in a public statement. Larissa Klazinga, assistant to the Dean of Students, says the university can do little more than follow the protocol, enforce security measures and try to raise awareness regarding rape.
Students are provided with post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV and support in the event of an incident, however the university’s focus is on prevention. Klazinga feels that while the university can create an atmosphere where change is a real possibility, it cannot change people’s minds. The issue of rape is a growing concern and societies such as SHARC continue to spread awareness about the issue. “We are going to emphasise [male rape] a lot more,” said Tracy Daniel, SHARC media representative, explaining that SHARC has raised awareness regarding the procedures rape victims should follow. The stigma associated with rape often means that victims delay reporting the incident or refuse to seek help. Victims fear complicated legal proceedings, retribution and are sometimes ashamed however De Klerk said, “I urge all students to report such incidents immediately, so that we can assist. There is absolutely no shame or blame attached to being assaulted, whether by another student, a partner, a friend or a stranger”.
Since the incident the SRC has focused on increasing the amount of security on campus by positioning security guards closer to the edge of campus as well as placing cameras outside of residences. “We can’t tell students where to go, we can advise them on their safety,” said former SRC president Ricardo Pillay.