UP students on and off campus should be informed about and supported in their experience with gender-based violence (GBV). Here are measures you can take or recommend to someone who experiences GBV. The most important thing that we can all do to support survivors of GBV is to believe them. This applies to those in our lives as well as general behaviour. If a friend or family member reports someone, or comes to you privately to tell you about violence they experienced, it is important to support them emotionally and believe them. When a public figure comes out, our language and reactions let our friends and family know how we would approach them if they had to reveal something similar. Phrases like “they were asking for it”, “what were they wearing”, “why were they alone with them/in that area” and other victim-blaming language discourages other survivors from coming forward.
Learn the signs that someone is being abused and know who to report it to. If someone you know has frequent bruises, seems fearful of their partner or someone else in their life, or admits something to you, you should help them to find safety from their situation without putting them in danger. UN Women has compiled a list of common signs of abuse (https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/faqs/signs-of-abuse) in our own relationships, such as a controlling partner, a violent partner, or a partner who is unclear on the rules of consent.
If you or someone you know is experiencing GBV, report it to a police station, and contact the Transformation Office (Sarah Matseke (Sarah.email@example.com) or Nontsikelelo Loteni (Ntsikie.firstname.lastname@example.org)). UP also offers counselling services for all students. Contact them on 012 420 2333, email@example.com or https://www.up.ac.za/student-counselling. You can also access the processes to be followed for booking counselling services via this link: https://www.up.ac.za/media/shared/396/letter-to-students-f.zp187498.pdf. For all after-hours emergencies you can contact the UP Care Line on 0800 747 747 or the UP Crisis Line on 0800 006428.
Educate yourself. Popular culture, especially romance movies and books, have glamourised tropes like people saying no to sex while secretly wanting to be forced into it, and other similar situations. We need to rethink our cultural discourses around consent. UP has outlined a clear document about what exactly GBV is (https://www.up.ac.za/speakoutup/article/2390196/what-is-gender-basedviolence). Most perpetrators of GBV are known to the survivor. Grey areas around consent, especially in relationships, keep victims from reporting rape to the police because they don’t really know if they have been raped or not. Educating yourself with reliable online and other sources could provide the clarity and understanding needed to prevent such a situation. Consensual sex and healthy relationships that are willing to discuss sex will be beneficial for all partners in the long run. The patriarchy hurts us all. When women and people of margianalised genders stand up and support each other, we can be part of the solution in grass-roots ways that can affect real change.
Gender-based violence is present in many facets of our society, but it does not have to continue to be. Everyone has the right to feel safe in every situation, and to know that both their community and their government will support them after speaking out. Only through a shift in our thinking can we make a difference.