A lecturer at the University of Cape Town (UCT) has been accused of sexual assault. The institution has announced they will urgently investigate the matter.

The accusation was levelled after UCT shared social media posts across their various platforms recognising a lecturer in the actuarial science department on Wednesday, June 24. In response, a social media user alleged that the lecturer in question attempted to force himself on her in 2012.

In a Twitter thread, the social media user explained that she knew the lecturer through mutual friends. He had allegedly offered her a lift home one night but drove past her stop and straight to his home instead. He then allegedly locked her in his home and tried to force himself on her. She says she was able to get away and call for help.

After the woman shared her post, she received Direct Messages from others who allege to have had similar experiences with the same man.

UCT has since deleted the original post, and published a notice stating they would investigate the matter.

“Notice: On Wednesday, 24 June 2020, UCT shared on our social media platforms posts recognising a lecturer in the actuarial science department,” the institution wrote on Facebook. “In response, a social media user has made allegations of gender-based violence against the lecturer. UCT has removed the posts while the matter is being urgently investigated.”

“The incident has been reported to the Office for Inclusivity & Change (OIC) as per the university’s commitment to responding to allegations of this nature. The OIC has made contact with the survivor and will work with her and other relevant authorities to support and advise the complainant,” said the university’s media liaison, Elijah Moholola.

“UCT reiterates that the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is applicable in this matter. All staffing matters must be managed through fair processes in accordance with the university’s policies and legislation. UCT’s HR department is leading this process.”

Over the years, students at the university have protested against rape culture. Large-scale protest action was mobilised in 2019 following the murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana.

In 2018, Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor said, statistics show that more incidents of rape were recorded at UCT than at any other South African university.

In the same year, UCT’s Office for Inclusivity and Change (OIC) launched an online case management system allowing staff and students to report sexual offences. During a presentation, data collected on reported cases during the period January 1 to September 16, 2019 revealed that:

– 35% were rape-related

– 27% were sexual harassment

– 21% were sexual assault

– 12% were domestic violence

– 5% were unknown, which means details were not provided

“Data on the location of the rapes showed that most occurred off campus. In terms of the alleged perpetrators, although four were staff members – three professional, administrative support and service (PASS) staff and one academic – the majority were either students or external to UCT,” writes UCT.

The presentation also revealed several challenges within existing procedures regarding how to respond to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

“The first is that there are different disciplinary procedures for academic staff, PASS staff and students. Staff disciplinary procedures have internal human resources (HR) and labour relations requirements, while students go through the university’s student disciplinary tribunal process.”

It further acknowledged the lack of a gender-sensitive approach, a lack of understanding of the trauma experienced by survivors and how this affects their ability to provide evidence, a lack of adequate support, and a shortage of specialised experience.

“Often, there would be a lack of SGBV expertise from all involved: the presiding officer, prosecutor and the assessors who are drawn from staff and students.”

In 2019, the university established a specialised tribunal with a survivor-centred approach to help address the scourge of  SGBV.

Picture: Pixabay

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