"This thing of the victim has to prove that the perp intented to assault is kak!": social media responses to sexual violence on South African university campuses

SOURCE: Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2017
TITLE AUTHOR(S): R.Bashonga, Z.Khuzwayo
KEYWORDS: GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE, RAPE, SEXUAL ABUSE, UNIVERSITIES
DEPARTMENT: Impact Centre (IC), Impact Centre (PRESS), Impact Centre (CC)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 10162

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Abstract

Since 2015 South African universities have emerged as central sites for the decolonial project which has manifested through various movements such as 'Fees Must Fall' and 'Rhodes Must Fall'. Understood as Fallism, these movements have looked towards the deconstruction of various forms of oppression not only in universities but across South African society. Although issues of race and class are central to the recent wave of student activism, the issue of sexual violence has become a critical feature of the project. Public protests and social media are important platforms on which the issues of South Africa's rape culture and university policies on sexual violence are being interrogated. This article explores public opinion regarding sexual violence on university campuses. It analyses university policy as well as social media data on the topic, using document and content analysis. Examination of these narratives reveals the ongoing power of patriarchy and its impact on sexual violence. Findings show dissatisfaction with university policies on sexual assault, which are perceived as outdated and ineffective, and that rape culture at universities is viewed as a symptom of broader patriarchy in society. In response to these findings we recommend that attention be given to the sensitivity of cases presented, as well as to strategies of communication and training in dealing with sexual assault. This would include a psychosocial component of sexual assault and harassment being considered, and appropriate approaches to dealing with its effects being made explicit.