The second DUT Dialogue on sexual violence, on 8th October 2015, started late as a large group of students coming to City Campus missed the bus to the event and arrived late. Despite that, there was excellent discussion on both the issues and the way ahead. Discussion was led by Crispin Hemson, Director of ICON, while present were also staff of the feminist journal Agenda, a partner in the work on sexual violence, a member of Umtapo, staff from different campuses of DUT, and one student in the project who comes from Mangosuthu University of Technology.
The dialogue began with people speaking about the range of concerns that they have about issues of sexual violence. Amongst the issues raised repeatedly were the ways in which men – other students, security staff – interact with young women and the pressure they place on them. The men present also spoke of their own anxieties and concerns over not knowing whether they were handling situations right, though the response of one young woman was that men do not need to be taught how to handle women; they should just notice the reality of how women are responding.
Another issue that was expressed was that women are feeling that they have the right to take seriously only actual rape, and that sexual harassment or partner physical abuse are somehow ‘normal’.
Professor Anthony Collins from Journalism spoke on his research on gender-based violence on university campuses in South Africa. His presentation stressed the ways in which these issues are silenced, allowing situations of extreme violence, including homicide, to become treated as insignificant. He also set out the ways in which students and staff at universities are mobilising themselves to bring about decisive change.
Three students from the project on young women’s leadership on sexual violence spoke on different aspects of the issues as they experience them. A specific accusation was that security staff, who should be providing security, are themselves involved in harassment. Students do not know where and how to report abuse, and need support
The students also presented a short drama that highlighted the ways in which women’s clothing becomes used as the justification for harassment.
One of the steps that will follow from the Dialogue will be involving young men and women from this work in presenting on these issues in the Cornerstone module (which is reaching a high proportion of first year DUT students), so that their experience and knowledge is made available to first year students.
Finally, there was agreement across the board on the next step:
- DUT needs a group that represents the networks present at the Dialogue that can address the issues of policy and implementation, and that can support activism on this issue.
- We will report this to the Executive Management of DUT with a request that this group be headed by the Registrar, Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa.