On Thursday, 22 September 2016 we hosted a Break the Silence Walk with the aim of raising awareness of sexual violence and sexual harassment among students in South Africa, and among South Africans generally.
The event took place on campus, with many of our of students and staff gathering to show their support for those affected by sexual violence and to add their voices to the message that sexual violence should not be tolerated. The diverse crowd was made up of students and staff from a variety of cultural backgrounds, ages, nationalities and genders. Our students and staff wore coloured arm bands to show their support and stickers over their mouths, symbolising the way in which victims of sexual violence often go unheard or are actively silenced. The stickers were then removed so that the silence could be broken.
The event was organised by CRIMON, the student society of criminology and victimology, in participation with the Community Engagement department. The walk was followed by rousing and powerful talks from mother and daughter, Rochelle and Nikita Pimental, who spoke of their own experiences of sexual violence and the way forward. Rochelle is the founder of Love 167, an organisation which aims to establish trauma centres for rape, child trafficking and domestic violence in various communities across South Africa.
Shannalee Doran, President of CRIMON, says that she hopes the walk made our students aware that there is help available if they need it, that they are not alone and that sexual violence is never acceptable. CEO Esther Benjamin says “I am proud of our students for using their powerful voices to stand up against sexual violence and to stand in support of survivors. Just as we chanted loudly on our solidarity walk, together we must break the silence and end the violence”.