Stellenbosch University (SU) will be setting up a permanent mechanism to monitor RapeCulture and gender violence on its campuses. Monitoring activities will include an annual climate survey to compile a RapeCulture report, which will be presented to the Rector's Management Team (RMT).
This is one of the key recommendations of the SU End RapeCulture task team. The team was initiated by the RMT in March 2016 to generate proposals aimed at changing the culture underpinning gender violence and RapeCulture at SU, being a manifestation of the broader societal challenge in this regard.
The monitoring function will operate from the Equality Unit of the Centre for Student Counselling and Development in the Division of Student Affairs and will monitor all campuses.
RapeCulture refers to attitudes, beliefs, behaviour and practices that normalise gender discrimination and sexual violence, including rape. (For a more formal definition, see "More about RapeCulture" below.)
"Universities' role in addressing RapeCulture is not only about engaging students in the here and now at SU, but also about equipping our graduates as agents of change to have a real and sustainable impact on the wider South African society," said Dr Birgit Schreiber, Senior Director: Student Affairs and chair of the task team. "We seek to develop graduates who can recognise injustices and power asymmetries, and can act powerfully on these in acceptable ways that lead to sustainable transformation in South Africa."
The task team, which consisted of various SU academic, support and administrative staff, representatives from the Student's Representative Council (SRC), student leaders from SU communities as well as student activists, recently submitted their report to the RMT, who subsequently approved the recommendations contained therein.
"The task team did a thorough job, and the University management accepted the report with appreciation. The recommendations will go a long way towards helping us address this challenge, which we share with the rest of society. Every member of the University community has a responsibility to do their bit," said Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor.
Schreiber added: "In exploring gender violence and RapeCulture, the task team found that, just as in society at large, this was a pervasive problem on campus, not only violating the victims/survivors, but affecting everyone – staff, students, friends and family of victims/survivors, as well as the perpetrators themselves. We live in a brutally violent society, of which gender violence is but one of the manifestations."
She emphasised that students and staff alike carried the responsibility to change the culture in which gender violence is embedded: "We need men and women who have the courage to expose RapeCulture, and to change it by not only speaking against sexist slurs, derogatory images, cruel jokes and explicit gender violence in our society, but also to take positive steps to change the culture that makes these seem normal."
Apart from setting up a RapeCulture monitoring mechanism, the task team recommended that SU senior management, staff and students take part in End RapeCulture training. In commenting on the report, the RMT indicated their commitment and enthusiasm to do so.
"We think it is very important for senior management to model, lead and live the changes they wish to see. We all should in fact model End RapeCulture behaviour and attitudes, and explicitly address this within line management to have a direct impact on culture. We also require a commitment from all students and staff so that issues around gender violence and RapeCulture are incorporated into their conceptualisation of transformation, culture change and renewal," said Schreiber.
The task team facilitated a range of activities and interventions during 2016 that enabled the wider SU community to join in the discussions about RapeCulture. This included student and staff conversations, media releases and newspaper articles, training for student leaders, the wider student community as well as staff, a video about RapeCulture, student support and development programmes, and a dedicated website.
- Click here to read the report.
MORE ABOUT RAPECULTURE: DEFINITION
The SU End RapeCulture task team defines RapeCulture as follows:
RapeCulture refers to attitudes, beliefs, behaviour and practices that normalise gender discrimination and sexual violence, including rape. Behaviour commonly associated with RapeCulture include gender discrimination, sexism, victim blaming, sexual objectification, 'slut shaming', trivialising rape, denial of widespread rape, refusal to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence be that implicit or explicit, or some combination of these that lead to sexual violence becoming so normalised that rape and gender violence is not viewed as a serious problem. Rape Culture also includes the subtle behaviours and subconsciously held attitudes and beliefs which underpin our patriarchal culture in South Africa into which RapeCulture is embedded.
RapeCulture includes all forms of discursive, visual and audio expressions of gender violence, including sexist jokes, media messages via for instance television, music, advertising, social discourse and imagery that normalise violence against women and sexual coercion.