By Daniel Charvat
For everything that Grahamstown is, with its character and small town lifestyle, it’s important to remember that it is still just another town in crime-ridden South Africa, where being street-wise is your most valuable asset. O-Week (that would be the week you’re currently in, while half-heartedly reading this newspaper before the next introductory talk), is the one week that will remain in your memory as the most memorable week of your university life. Trust me, looking back at your year 10 months from now, you’ll see what I mean. Last year a girl was allegedly raped in O-Week, just one case of the 94 reported incidents of rape in Grahamstown last year.Of course crime affects everyone in Grahamstown, not only the students in Rhodes, but along with the 22 incidents of indecent assault reported last year, the numbers become a little alarming. With a person reportedly being sexually assaulted every three days, we need to start facing the realities. There are numerous guards and security personnel posted around campus, and they will do their utmost to ensure the safety of the students, yet they cannot be accounted for off-campus. Meeting older students and then setting off to rendezvous at their digs is all good and well, but remember that a digs is often quite a way off campus and waltzing along in a paralytic fashion (as most of you will be doing for the most part of O-Week) is sure to attract undesirable attention from all the wrong characters. This may be the part where all the male readers start thinking “shit, lucky I’m a guy…no-one will mess with me”, about that: another case last year saw a male student getting friendly at The Rat and subsequently meeting a bunch of great new guy friends. The same bunch of friends who, mere hours later, allegedly led him down a dark street and raped him.The sad truth is that crime exists wherever we are, and even though the University does what they can to protect us from criminal elements, we still need to constantly be on our toes. Nearing the end of last year, two female students were robbed at knife point whilst leaving the Drama Department. Crime moves around, often in anticipation of what we, the targets, are doing. Mapping out the dangerous areas, therefore, proves to be a difficult task. There are certain precautions one can take though: African Street at night is a big no no; it’s the street that runs parallel to the University past the BP petrol station. The large drains that run along African Street provide perfect cover for street thugs, who have been known to leap out at unsuspecting students. The University “Blue Routes” have panic buttons along them and are constantly patrolled by CPU guards, but again this does not apply for off-campus routes. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, it is essential to remain aware of what is going on around you at all times, even when you’re hammered. If you are in a situation where everyone is plastered, fine, gather a crew and walk home together, at least then your main concern will be the swift receipt of a couple hours of community service for noise pollution. In my opinion that’s slightly better than your life being changed forever and it’s definitely better than your life being taken away from you at the discretion of a sharp knife.
Reported cases of assault, common robbery and burglary are all nearing the 1000 mark per annum in Grahamstown, but before you start looking for the next flight out of here, remember this article is just to make sure you know what’s going on around you. Right, so now we’re all depressed and slightly apprehensive of going out this evening, but don’t let this take away from the amazing time you’re sure to have. Rhodes is an experience just waiting to be had, but before you trot off to the nearest (or cheapest) liquor store in preparation for a wild one tonight, wake up!