Universities not effectively handling sexual abuse complaints - Belinda Bozzoli

DA MP says that of 30 reported cases of rape over past three years, only 8 (including those pending) reached a conclusion

No justice for University rape victims

10 October 2014

The DA is greatly concerned that in the 15 Universities detailed in a reply to a DA Parliamentary question, a total of 247 cases of sexual violence, domestic violence, and rape over the past three years were reported, but of these only 60 resulted in internal charges being successfully brought to a conclusion by the University, and a mere two cases were reported to the police.

Indeed South African Universities appear unable to pursue cases of sexual violence and rape that are reported through internal disciplinary procedures to their logical conclusion. Furthermore, only a minute number appear to be prosecuted through the courts.

Therefore I will seek meetings with the Rectors and Vice-Chancellors of all major Universities to discuss their plans to address this affliction, including absolutely confidential and anonymous reporting of sexual crimes.

I will also be working closely with my DA colleagues on the Portfolio Committee for Police to devise and consider plans to make our Universities safer from sexual crimes. 

Of the 30 reported cases of rape, only 8 (including those pending) reached a conclusion. 

Of the 68 reports of sexual violence, 38 were taken further; and of the 149 reports of domestic violence among students, a paltry 18 were pursued to a conclusion by the University.

Most alarmingly, the University of Fort Hare received a staggering 70 reports of domestic violence in the past three years, of which none appear to have been taken further, either internally or externally.

In a majority of cases that reach conclusion, inappropriate punishments such as suspension for a short period, counselling or mediation, appear to have been meted out.

But these disturbing figures of reported crimes going unpunished may themselves in fact not truly represent the scourge of violence on higher education campuses  - the reporting statistics are out of keeping with what we know about the broader society, where, as a recent study by the Medical Research Council shows, 28% of all South African men have reported having perpetrated rape. Three quarters of these men reported having perpetrated rape before the age of 20.

The rates of reported rape and other forms of sexual violence in Universities may therefore not be a true reflection of situation on the ground.

The DA questions why there are such low reporting numbers and why we see such low prosecution rates in Universities.

Young university women are inhibited from reporting sexual crimes for a variety of reasons, including intimidation, ostracism and embarrassment. Many victims withdraw their cases soon after they have been reported, as reporting is often made taboo.  

Most universities fail to provide a sufficiently supportive environment for young women in difficulty. There is a desperate need for institutions to provide anonymous and confidential facilities for victims to report sexual violence, and for universities and the authorities to make it clear to young people that gender-based violence is entirely unacceptable, and will result in severe punishment.  

Statement issued by Prof Belinda Bozzoli MP, DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education and Training, October 10 2014

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