Sexual harassment complaint
A complaint of sexual harassment has been made to the Wits Gender Equity Office by someone in the Wits community against a staff member at CALS
A report of sexual harassment was made to the Wits Gender Equity Office at the end of August by someone in the Wits community against a member of CALS staff.
The Gender Equity Office (GEO) is a unit within the University with specialist expertise set up to deal with complaints of sexual harassment. The unit provides a safe and confidential space for staff and students to report these incidents, offers them counselling, and oversees any related disciplinary procedures.
In this case, the GEO acted swiftly to provide the complainant with support and advice and, with her consent, commenced a formal complaint process. The GEO has concluded its preliminary investigation into the report, and referred the matter to a formal disciplinary process for hearing. A few days later, and prior to the hearing, the accused staff member resigned from his position at CALS. The GEO has confirmed that in light of his resignation, the disciplinary process cannot proceed.
At Wits, the GEO is the specialist unit that handles complaints of sexual harassment. We respect and defer to their processes. In support of the work that they do, we felt it was necessary to issue this statement. This is because while reports of sexual harassment are difficult to process and manage, it is important that we deal with them candidly. Doing so may help to break the culture of silence around sexual harassment that has allowed it to thrive for so long. In addition, as a centre that actively works on cases of sexual harassment in the public and private sectors, we constantly advocate for openness and accountability. We believe firmly in these values and therefore also in holding ourselves to those same standards.
Grappling with complaints of sexual harassment requires us to reflect on the broader, contextual picture. Sexual harassment is serious, widespread and systemic. It is a reflection of the damaging attitudes that pervade our society including in spaces like academia and the legal profession. Reports of incidents of sexual harassment are so often ignored, dismissed or made invisible, which can further compound the harm done. It is thus critical that when reports of sexual harassment are made, they are acknowledged and taken seriously.
As CALS we acknowledge our responsibility to each other – in our organisation, in academia, in the social justice sector and in society in general – to deal openly with reports of sexual harassment and so begin to make our spaces more supportive and safer. We also acknowledge an ongoing responsibility to reflect on our own attitudes and understanding of sexual harassment and commit ourselves to learning more about this and how we can contribute to tackling this systemic problem.
We would like to remind anyone who has experienced sexual harassment at Wits that they can contact the GEO to access support and lay a complaint. Contacting the GEO is confidential and does not commit you to following a formal process. You can call their office on 011 717 9790, contact their after-hours hotline on 076 827 4001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to report sexual harassment.
For more information, please contact:
Lisa Chamberlain, Acting Director on 011 717 8624 or 073 210 7563 or at Lisa.Chamberlain@wits.ac.za