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Unisa rape case: Student sues professor

2020-01-10 12:03

A law student at Unisa has alleged that a professor at the university raped her. The professor was cleared of the charges after a disciplinary hearing at the university, but the student is challenging the decision in a civil case.

The 30-year-old is claiming R750 000 from the professor and R200 000 from Unisa, arguing that the university had a duty to protect her from him.

According to the student, she and the professor were in his office in November 2014 working on a novel she wanted to publish.

He then took her to her apartment and became amorous. She asked him whether he had a condom and told him that she would not have unprotected sex.

She alleges that he ignored her and raped her. Afterwards, she saw that he had genital warts, she alleges.

The university informed her that the professor had been cleared of the charges in the disciplinary hearing on November 17 2016.

The professor was found not guilty by a disciplinary committee, which found that the two had a “consensual, intimate relationship of a sexual nature”.

The student argues that the university’s decision was irrational and unreasonable. She is therefore asking the court to set it aside.

Unisa is opposing the case.

Phasoane Mokgobu, a member of the executive management at Unisa, said in an affidavit that the student had alleged that the professor sexually harassed her.

The professor was found not guilty by a disciplinary committee, which found that the two had a “consensual, intimate relationship of a sexual nature”.

Unisa denies that the professor forced the woman to do anything she did not want to do.

During his disciplinary hearing, the professor testified that the student was the “initiator” on the day that he took her home, and denied that there was a “penetrative sexual act” between them.

In addition, the university argues, the student did not submit a medical report to the disciplinary hearing.

There was no evidence before the committee that he sexually harassed or raped her
Unisa

After the incident, the university claims, she visited the professor and asked him for financial assistance. Once the relationship between them soured, she made the allegation of sexual harassment.

According to Unisa, the student should have laid a charge of rape with the police immediately, but she did not do so.

“There was no evidence before the committee that he sexually harassed or raped her,” it said.

The student’s complaint changed to a rape allegation when she realised the professor had lied when he declared his love for her, the university claims. Unisa alleges this was evident from the cellphone messages between the two.

However, the student argues in her court papers that there was an unequal relationship between her and the professor, and that there was a “high probability of manipulation”.

She says the disciplinary committee did not fully examine the evidence presented to it.

An expert who testified before the disciplinary committee said it was not unusual for a rape victim to maintain contact with an abuser.

Meanwhile, the Women’s Legal Centre Trust has applied to be admitted as a friend of the court in the matter.

The trust says in its court papers that sexual harassment is a systemic problem at education institutions. At universities and colleges, many such cases go unreported.

There has been an increase in the number of complaints of sexual harassment over the past few years, especially in the workplace.


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April 5 2020