“They’ll ask: what were you doing in a guy’s res in the first place?”

    Female students at Stellenbosch University spoke to RA’EESA PATHER about incidents relating to safety and sexual harassment that have occurred in their community and how, at times, male students have transgressed boundaries.

    Carlé CilliéCarlé Cillié, 20, second-year BAccounting
    Last year we had a few incidents. A girl got stabbed, another was raped, and there was a girl who was kidnapped, but managed to escape. It’s all things that could’ve happened anywhere, and not all of it happened on campus, but I think the university itself implemented quite a few adjustments to ensure our safety on campus. At night, there’s always people from campus security driving around; if you’re studying late, you can call them and they’ll walk with you to the res. They really do quite a lot of things for safety. It could’ve happened to anyone – I just think overall women are softer targets.

    Mbali TyoloMbali Tyolo, 19, second-year BSc
    I got mugged in the nature reserve during the day, so now I’m shaken. The nature reserve is basically part of campus; it’s so close to here. If I walk alone – especially on weekends, because it’s quite empty – and there’s a guy passing by, I get uneasy. I don’t walk at night at all. [Campus Security] is not effective – we’ve heard so many stories about how they don’t want to help students who have been mugged, but they are campus security, and even if we are mugged off-campus they should respond to students who are in trouble. I know there have been incidents where guys have been inappropriate to girls on campus, but personally I have not had those experiences. There’s a story that a female student was raped by a male student in Eendrag res earlier this year. It’s hard to know exactly what happened and who was involved. I have a thing with men visiting res, because you’re so used to girls in a res that when you see a guy it’s a surprise. In some ways it’s okay, because you think that the guy is with a girl here, but what happens if he’s not?

    Rufaro ChikariRufaro Chikari, 20, second-year environmental studies
    I feel safe on the main campus, but there are a lot of cases of robberies around the other areas. It’s an open campus, so anyone can come in and out. I also got robbed recently opposite res, so I feel very unsafe there. I don’t go to the park anymore and I’m more careful about how I walk around campus. I prefer to walk with a guy, because with girls it’s less safe. I’ve never had experiences of sexual harassment on campus. The only story I’ve heard about that is the rape in Eendrag, but nothing else. With the rape, it made me scared to go to a guy’s res, because people think it’s your fault. They’ll ask: what were you doing in a guy’s res in the first place?

    Kirsten MartinsKirsten Martins*, 20, second-year management accounting
    I’ve never experienced any incidents – I’ve heard about stuff, but because it hasn’t happened to me I’m still that naïve person who thinks it won’t ever happen to me. Campus security does make me feel safe. If I’m walking around at night and I see them, then I feel like I can walk around with my phone. The rape story was scary, because the fact that you sit with someone who could be a rapist in class… the fact that they could be walking around thinking about raping someone is scary. I’ve been lucky not to experience anything, but at a women’s res there was an incident with a friend of mine during initiation. The guys take the girls into the shower and wet them. It’s just meant to be for fun; the girls are fully clothed. With her, there was a point where the guys were alone in a room with her, telling her to take off her clothes and her underwear. I can’t remember the details, but she was scared and she felt very threatened, When she went to the res authorities, the way they handled it wasn’t to her satisfaction. There was a lot of stories about student res leaders getting dismissed, and she felt like they were looking down on her because it was her fault they got dismissed.

     *Name has been changed.
    – All images by Ra’eesa Pather.
    – Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity. 

    Editors note: One vox pop has been removed, at the request of the interviewee.