CyberStorm is a Congolese student in her final year. She is 22 and grew up in the Western Cape. Before the initial lockdown, she worked at a local pub where she gained valuable knowledge about the role of alcohol in student life. 

Four main themes emerged in her PhotoVOICE 2.0 journey.

1. We can’t blame alcohol, but we can’t act like it’s not part of the conversation

CyberStorm often reflected on the role of alcohol on campus. It is a major part of campus life, essential to almost all social engagements. Yet what about your safety when you get drunk? And who gets blamed if you are assaulted while you are drunk?

“This picture is just illustrating the drinking culture in Stellenbosch. And that it’s not just men that are going out, getting wasted and going watching the rugby.”

“I realised that a lot of my pictures had alcohol in it. So then the obvious question afterwards is ‘is alcohol safe?’ And if it’s safe, how safe is it? Because that’s one of the major concerns.”

“I think it’s very funny that the world is in a pandemic, but people will still find an excuse to drink… So I find it interesting that that’s the same attitude that is applied to a virus and also gender-based violence.”

“She got really drunk, but her boyfriend at the time was really sober and you know something happened between them… And I found it interesting that instead of going to the perpetrator, instead of questioning the perpetrator, it is as if we purposely blame ourselves.”

“There’s this element of sisterhood, and they are all standing next to each other. And then there was a story of actually one of those girls getting really drunk, not really knowing what’s going to happen to her after she leaves the restaurant. And so I feel… (it) just illustrates, like the uncertain nature between safety and alcohol. There’s no real clear line. We don’t really know what’s going on… It reminds me of the calm before the storm, because here it looks so calm and quiet before everyone gets drunk.”

“Basically, we love alcohol on campus! We love alcohol… Whether I am on campus or off campus, I’m still consuming alcohol and alcohol is a really big part of the campus culture.”

“Although we cannot blame alcohol, we cannot act like it’s not part of the conversation. But I feel like one of the things that we have been neglecting is that we haven’t really asked women and especially women in residences whether they feel safe when alcohol is around. And so we haven’t really gotten their view of the situation and what factors of having alcohol around in rez space is actually triggering or nerve wracking or where do the problems actually lie?”

2. Why are women held responsible?

Through various photos and voicenotes, CyberStorm reflects on how women are affected and held responsible when it comes to sex.

“And I don’t feel like there’s that sort of pressure on men, where it’s like ‘don’t you dare get somebody pregnant, don’t you dare like, you know…do that.’”

“And so I found it kind of funny because I was like ‘what if we just change the context of this picture’… (S)o I imagine them talking about birth control in the same way that women will talk about birth control. As in just realising that the burden is often placed on women – especially when we come to University – to ‘bring back degrees and not babies.’ But that pressure is not put on men as well.”

“… (W)e also still do put that pressure on the women that, ‘oh hey if you got pregnant, that’s your problem, you know, don’t make it my problem.'”

”I don’t know if it starts there with religion, with this idea of, like, women are only as good as their virginity or women are as good as their birth-giving ability.”

“But the nice thing is… going to campus health to go get birth control… it’s kind of like a bonding moment between the girls. It’s kind of like a sisterhood thing where we can actually talk about these things and why they make us feel like this.”

3. What is residence life teaching students?

CyberStorm reflected on how big a part of campus life is linked to living in a residence and all the different residence practices and traditions. However, often these practices and traditions reinforce harmful norms and beliefs.

“It is usually the rezzes that institutionalise this idea that they are better than everyone and they have a superiority complex that forms by virtue of being in rez.”

“So, the last thing that we were talking about was concerning ‘skakels’ (organised social events between rezzes, usually a men’s rez and a women’s rez) and the nature of ‘skakels’. And were they still necessary, what were the purposes of these?”

“’Skakels’ came up again and how those are really big influences of how campus life goes moving forward and it felt like enough wasn’t being done at the ‘skakels’ to prevent like instances of harassment…”

“…(A)lthough the University may bring out this image that student leaders have a lot of power and a lot of influence within their rezzes or within their PSOs (private student organisations), that’s not really the case. In fact, all they can really do is just follow policy and even then, they’re not trained to properly follow policy.”

“… (T)hat idea that there are bars in male rezzes, there are no bars in female rezzes. So it’s like sort of this thing that lures females out of their rezzes and take them into male rezzes where they can get drunker for cheaper.”

4. The University is not addressing campus rape culture

CyberStorm feels that the University is not prioritising addressing campus rape culture. On the contrary, through both action and inaction it is actually engraining it even further.

“The blood is still there two weeks afterwards and they still hadn’t cleaned it up and they still haven’t closed that ditch. Even after she’s complained.”

“Like there’s no training, these (student leaders) don’t receive any training (on campus rape culture). They didn’t receive any kind of training on how to address this and I think it’s (part of) that overarching dismissal of the fact that this is a problem that happens at Stellenbosch.”

“And these campus security gentlemen wanted to sit with us on this bench and we had told them to go away because we were having a really deep conversation. However, they did not want to leave us alone and we ended up leaving the bench.”

“You know, (after) spending three days (as part of the baseline training for this research project)… I started picking up little elements of (campus rape culture) everywhere around me. So now I feel like if the (student leaders) also just maybe got like half or even less than that. Even if you just train the HKs (residences’ student leadership councils) and the mentors. It is gonna be a lot more effective than just kind of expecting them to deal with it when something happens. So practically I think that they need more training.”

“Again, another picture of campus security. About how they are supposed to protect us but they don’t really…”

“One thing I notice is that these men in these (institutional) spaces can notice that there’s a problem. However, they do not care about the actual cause of the problem, and that’s why there’s such a big institutional gap, and that’s why repeated incidences of violence will happen. Stellenbosch can set up as many committees as they want, but if you’re not actually addressing the actual root causes of the foundations that this campus was built on, then I don’t really see how we’re going to change things.”

Thank you for engaging with Cyberstorm’s journey. Please click here to move onto exploring B.v’s journey.