/ 25 November 2016

#RapeAtJunction report: Wits student accommodation staff failed complainant

Students at Wits University are protesting to express their dissatisfaction with university management.
Students at Wits University are protesting to express their dissatisfaction with university management.

A report into an incident of rape at the University of the Witwatersrand has found that the university’s student accommodation staff failed a student who said she had been raped by another student in a residence building.

“The report is quite categorical that while one individual from Residence Life in particular was empathetic and continuously supportive, other officials did not demonstrate sufficient empathy and care and failed the complainant by not meeting the university’s commitment to providing a safe space for complainants of gender based harm,” Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib said in a statement.

The completed report was handed to Habib on Thursday, but the university has said it cannot make the report public because it names the complainant and the accused.

Wits University appointed gender researcher and analyst Nomboniso Gasa to investigate and compile the report after students at the university protested at Wits Junction, the campus residence where the accused stays. 

The complainant and the accused reportedly continued staying in the same residence block, even after the rape was reported. Wits appointed Gasa to compile the report.

Gasa criticised the university for allowing the accused to live in close promixity to the complainant.

“The university ought to have intervened to avoid the state of affairs where the complainant and the person against whom she had lodged a complaint resided in the same residential block, while at the same time respecting the legal rights of all. 

“The report particularly recommends that measures be immediately implemented within residences to ensure that these lapses are not repeated,” Habib summarised a finding in the report.

The report recommended that staff who have not followed the university’s sexual violence policy or behaved with sensitivity towards a complainant should be sanctioned by Wits. 

It also recommended the university’s Gender Equity Office and the vice-chancellor’s office tackle difficult discussions on rape in the insitution and society, and the university follow previous recommendations to be more effective in communicating the status of investigations into rape accusations.

Habib has said that the investigation will continue and is likely be completed within a week.