Stop skirting around the issue

By Roza Carvalho & Sian Cohen

Pic: Desiree Schirlinger



The annual Rape Awareness Week ran from 23 to 30 April. The week was marked by a number of events including protests and photographic exhibitions.

Although the week featured support from the 1 in 9 Campaign, the Dean of Students, the Student Representative Council (SRC) and the Domestic Violence and Rape Unit of the Legal Activism Society, the week’s message was not enough to stop an assualt.

On the first day of Rape Awareness Week the Dean of Students, Vivian De Klerk, informed students of the second sexual assualt in two weeks on a female student on 18 April during a digs ‘formal dinner’. The survivor is receiving medical support and trauma counselling.

“Sexual violence is a reality on this campus and the majority of sexual assaults occur between people known to each other,” said de Klerk in her message to students. The Domestic Violence and Rape Unit of the Legal Activism Society alerted students to the rape legislation of December 2007. The legislation defines the rape of a woman or man as penetration of an object against one’s will, this includes anal and oral penetration. Forcing a person to sexually assault or rape another is classified as compelled rape.

Amnesty International opened the week with a photographic exhibition in Eden Grove in which Michael Dexter depicted several students and staff members as victims of abuse and violence, including de Klerk and Vice-Chancellor Dr Saleem Badat. Below the photographs were personal accounts of violence or abuse, some included poems and extracts.

The “My Short Skirt” protest took place on 24 April and was supported by both male and female students who wore short skirts for the day. “My short skirt is not an invitation” was the line for the day when students, staff members and the head of Women Against Sexual Abuse (WASA), Corinne Knowles, read Eve Ensler’s poem, “My Short Skirt” in unison outside the library.

Terence Marais, a student at the protest said, “As a male, I am disgusted by the actions of so many others. We need to stand by women who speak out about rape.” Kwezilomso Mbandazanyo, SRC Activism and Transformation councillor and organiser of the event said, “Let us speak out about sexual violence. Let us not be silenced anymore.”

Amnesty hosted two showings of the “Vagina Monologues” on 23 and 25 April. The show’s message was to get women to love their vaginas, themselves and promote respect for women. “It got us thinking about how we view ourselves and that we should feel proud to be women,” said second year student, Tamlyn Arnold.

A Rape Survivor Safe House Fundraiser was held at the Old Gaol on Saturday 26 April. The 1 in 9 Campaign Photo Exhibition opened on Monday 28 April. The week ended with the “Sexual Violence = Silence protest”, where women spent the day with their mouths taped shut and men wearing 1 in 9 T-shirts




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