Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
“What is rape culture?” and other questions
Author: Corporate Marketing/ Korporatiewe Bemarking
Published: 13/04/2016


With rape and rape culture being widely reported on, Stellenbosch University (SU) has received a number of queries. This has enabled us to compile a list of frequently asked questions and answers. Please see below on rape and rape culture.


What support is there for a victim of sexual violence or rape?

SU provides counselling and support to students who seek assistance following incidents of sexual assault. Our Campus Health Service, Campus Security, Centre for Student Counselling and Development (CSCD) and our new Equality Unit assists in this regard, and a 24-hour Crisis Service is also available to students in urgent need of assistance.

Where can I report an incident of rape or sexual assault?

Women and men who are sexually harassed, abused or raped should not hesitate to report incidents to either the University's Crisis Service (tel: 082 557 0880) or Campus Security (tel: 021 808 2333; and 021 938 9507 for the Tygerberg Campus). It can also be reported anonymously at the University's independent Ethics Hotline (tel: 0800 204 549) or 
Complaints can also be mailed to the University's Equality Unit at

Rape is a criminal offense and should also be reported to the nearest police station.

Why is the number to report rape or other sexual misconduct not toll free?

We are working on providing a toll free number for security purposes. There are ICASA regulations and interconnectivity challenges between cellular networks that do not allow for toll free numbers from a cellular network to a Telkom line. We are currently negotiating with the cellular networks to get customised products for the University that are toll free for each network.

Why does the University not tell us when there has been a rape on campus?

The University treats all cases of sexual violence discreetly and in confidence. However, the University also tries to be transparent in its communication to students at all times. A criminal matter like rape is complex to communicate, but the University has undertaken to communicate as soon as possible. A traumatic experience like rape often poses the challenge that all the information is not always immediately available. Any wrong communication could have a legal impact on the University or the complainant.

Why does the University use the word 'alleged' when reporting on a rape incident?

Rape is a criminal offence and is subject to investigation by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and prosecution by the justice system. The University therefore uses the term "allegation" or "alleged" until a court of law has made a finding. An additional motivation is the presumption of innocence. The South African Bill of Rights states that: "… every accused person has a right to a fair trial, which includes the right to be presumed innocent until till proven guilty."

​What are the rape statistics at SU?

Going back to 2005, the statistics of all rape incidents reported to Campus Security and/or the SAPS on all SU campuses are the following:

  • 2016: 2
  • 2015: 2
  • 2014: 5
  • 2013: 1
  • 2012: 1
  • 2011: 1
  • 2010: 3
  • 2009: 2
  • 2008: 5
  • 2007: 4
  • 2006: 5
  • 2005: 4

How does the University deal with a reported incident of sexual misconduct?

As rape is a criminal offence, only the police can investigate rape. When a perpetrator and a victim is a staff member or student at SU, charges of sexual misconduct can be laid through any of the above mentioned channels.

Sexual misconduct is also dealt with in terms of the University's Student Disciplinary Code (for students) and it's Sexual Harassment Policy (for staff members). SU's Division of Legal Services investigates allegations, and the University's Sexual Harassment Advisory Committee hears and acts on reported cases of sexual misconduct.

The internal investigation procedures are not dependent on the police investigation in cases also reported to the police.

What is the University doing about the safety of students?

The safety of our students and staff is a priority for the University.
Over the last few years SU has:

  • Discontinued exams and tests at night (Exams are written in the morning and at 14:00. Undergraduate tests start at 17:30, just after the last lecture of the day with some time for students to reach the test venue. At postgraduate level and for individual assessments, departments may make their own arrangements.)
  • Instituted a shuttle service on campus and surrounds. (Visit for more information)
  • Made a pedestrian escort service available at night (call 021 808 4666 or WhatsApp 082 808 2333)
  • Doubled the number of guards patrolling the primary routes on campus
  • Upgraded pedestrian routes
  • Rolled out a vast street camera network
  • Established safety kiosks on campus
  • Increased the visibility of security officers, patrol vehicles and motorcycles
  • Started creating security zones, such as the one on the Rooiplein where a mast with cameras and lights has been erected
  • Started using the internet and social media to improve reaction capacity and run safety awareness campaigns among students and staff members
  • Forged active partnerships with the SAPS, Stellenbosch Municipality and the broader security community in town.

A Task Team has been formed but still a woman was raped. What is the Task Team doing?

At the beginning of March 2016, the Rector's Management Team (RMT) appointed a Task Team to urgently look into rape culture at the University and make the necessary recommendations. This is separate from on-going precautionary and preventative measures against rape.



What is rape culture?

Rape culture – first named and described internationally in the 1970s – is defined as various acts in which sexual aggression or sexual victimisation is normalised due to societal attitudes on gender and sexuality. Behaviours commonly associated with rape culture include sexual objectification, victim blaming, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by forms of sexual violence, or some combination of these. Society as a whole has a challenge in this regard – locally and globally.

Does rape culture really exist at the University?

The University acknowledges that rape culture exists at SU as it exists elsewhere in South Africa. We are not different from the rest of society, but embedded in it. Gender violence is endemic in society, and SU is part of it. The same general culture of disrespect and harassment of women that exists elsewhere in society is also found at SU.

What is the University doing to combat rape culture?

Existing counter-measures at SU include ongoing activities on our various campuses to create awareness about gender issues and sexual harassment. Consciousness-raising sessions and sensitivity training for staff members and students take place both in and outside of residences. But more systematic interventions might be required to challenge entrenched practices.

Our role is to create a climate in which we don't perpetuate the wrongs of society. We must be thought leaders within academic and social spaces in order to change society with a view to ending gender violence.

A stronger focus on this issue has led to the Rector's Management Team (RMT) appointing a Task Team to urgently look into rape culture at the University and make the necessary recommendations.

What will the Task Team focusing on?

The Task Team on Rape Culture will assess the current culture and climate at SU to determine the nature and extent of sexism and sexist practices and attitudes which underpin rape culture at SU. It will also explore the steps that have already been taken to address rape culture and their impact to date, assess the existing grievance procedures to determine if/where shortcomings are, and assess sanctions and consequences.

Furthermore the Task Team will Advise the RMT and rector on what strategies to employ to change aspects of SU culture, identify interventions which change culture, focus on all aspects which shape culture at SU and recommend interventions, focus on creating a safe and progressive interpersonal and social climate at SU.​