Sexual assault and harassment is not a new issue in today’s society. What’s more, it’s an issue that seems to be growing as more and more people find the courage to speak up and tell their stories. Subsequently, this has led to a larger light being shone on these issues. Because of these steadily increasing issues, April has been recognised as Sexual Assault Awareness month in an attempt to spread awareness about sexual violence around the world. It does not solely focus on women’s issues but also includes steps and education for men who may find themselves in a similar situation. Men’s sexual assault is not spoken about as much as women’s but it is just as important. Given the increasing violence against women and men in South Africa, resources and issues surrounding this subject have the opportunity to come to the forefront in April. According to Speakout, sexual harassment can come in many different forms which include but are not limited to aesthetic appreciation and sexual assault.
From 17 to 20 April, the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G)collaborated with UP’s Transformation Office. The two bodies commemorated the month by hosting numerous events meant to raise awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to be proactive.
Starting on Monday, 17 April, Students United Against GBV hosted a digital launch, in collaboration with the previous bodies, which discussed the impact of gender-based violence in the institution.
Continuing on Tuesday, pledges were made on Hatfield Campus at the Wall. This is where students painted their hands and signatures on the Wall and promised to do better against r*pe culture and ignorance.
Wednesday consisted of a workshop that was hosted at the Akanyang building where digital sexual harassment was discussed. The objective of the workshop was to raise awareness and educate communities on how to be proactive in preventing sexual assault. Digital sexual harassment can include revenge porn, unwanted sexting or sexual advances, bullying, and photo editing. Additionally, any use of a digital platform to harass or assault another person.
And to end the week off, information sessions outside the Transformation and Akanyang building were held on Thursday. These sessions gave a breakdown of what the CSA&G does and the services they provide. These include free HIV testing and counselling services, the 9-week entry-level training for volunteers, the distribution of internal resources like condoms, as well the distribution of pamphlets that contained information on sexual assault.
Events throughout the week were pushed forward by students belonging to Just Leaders, which operates under the CSA&G, and Speakout, which operates under the Transformation Office.
After understanding some of the forms of sexual violence, PDBY spoke to a sister from the Student Health Services Centre about the process surrounding sexual assault. While the clinic does not offer r*pe kits, they still have a referral system in place to assist students who have been sexually assaulted. Once a student comes in, they are referred to an accredited clinic, or the Tshwane District Hospital where a forensic doctor is available to do the necessary testing. Security Services are also called in, and make contact with an investigating officer in the SAPS should the person wish to press charges. The Transformation Office is also contacted. And if the crime has been reported within 3 days, either a decision is made to pursue a disciplinary process or mediation. However, if it is reported after 3 days, a Prima Facie assessment is done. While the clinic is not accredited or able to administer pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) (medication used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS in the event of exposure to HIV), they still have HIV testing kits available.
Other resources that are also available include the university’s Law Clinic, which is located at 1107 South St, Hatfield, Pretoria. The clinic offers free legal services to marginalised groups of people and is a recognised legal aid in terms of the Legal Practice Act, 28. The clinic forms part of the Faculty of Law and offers assistance on several legal issues, which include, but are not limited to matters of domestic violence and protection from harassment.