Some students requested clarity while others demanded proof at an event in which the long-awaited End Rape Culture report findings were presented.
Members of the End Rape Culture Task Team presented the report to students and staff from Stellenbosch University at the Stellenbosch University Museum Thursday, 12 October.
Birgit Schreiber, Senior Director of Student Affairs at Stellenbosch University and chair of the task team responsible for the report, and Monica du Toit, Head of the Transformation Office and member of the task team, discussed the recommendations of the report and engaged with audience members.
During the discussion editor-in-chief of campus newspaper, Nova Mentis, Tian Alberts raised his concerns about the lack of proof of a rape culture. “Where on campus do we normalise rape? The report doesn’t show us. Where are these horrible people who say that rape is OK?”
Schreiber urged the audience to look beyond the term rape culture as it turns people away from the debate due to their inability to grasp the term. “We’re looking at a set of beliefs, thoughts and practices that fundamentally disempower, violate, disadvantage women,” Schreiber said.
Throughout the discussion Du Toit and Schreiber reiterated the difference between rape and the concept of rape culture. “Stellenbosch University cannot monitor rape, rather rape culture,” Du Toit explained.
SRC chairperson Lwando Nkamisa participated in the discussion and said he thought the event was a success. “Going through the report I thought that this is a very good proactive measure. It is long overdue though, I mean we should’ve done this in 1994 or something.
“We as men have a cancer called rape culture. We all have it. The thing is that we need to control it. There are three things this SRC will have to deal with. The first one obviously is the water crisis, secondly safety and third, the issue of rape culture on our campus.”
Schreiber said that she was very happy with the reception of the report and welcomed the critique around the term “rape culture”. “I think a lot of men and a lot of women don’t feel implicated and don’t feel that they have responsibility,” she said, adding that conversations like these help.
According to Du Toit the conversation on the report was a good start. She stated that the recommendations in the report act as tools for the Stellenbosch community to hold one another accountable. “It’s a starting point for understanding how to address rape culture in a community and share responsibility for that,” she said.
A tangible outcome of the report will be the introduction of a Gender Violence & Rape Culture portfolio at the Equality Unit. A dedicated Gender Violence Coordinator will address some of the major recommendations from the report from 1 January 2018. –Andy Kohrs and Dalaine Krige