CONCEPTS AND REALITY IN GENDER BASED VIOLENCE: IS HEALING POSSIBLE?
Worldwide, sexual violence is on the rise in universities and colleges each day regardless of awareness campaigns, adoption of Acts to protect the population or raising of jail terms for perpetrators. Studies reveal that female students voluntarily or involuntarily fall prey in order to obtain better grades, access accommodation at campus, financial resources and other favours in exchange for sex. Survivors could not feel the impact on their well- being, but later re-live the memories as painful experiences. This study sought to explore sexual harassment as a form of gender-based violence and its bearing on the well-being of female students in four selected institutions of higher learning in Zimbabwe. The study was qualitative in nature utilising the narrative inquiry research tradition to investigate if healing is possible after painful experiences. Data were gathered using in-depth interviews backed with follow-up semi-structured questions. Findings revealed that the majority of female students in institutions under study fail to cope with the trauma and drop out of school. It was also established that some sexually harassed female students fail to establish meaningful sexual relationships with the opposite sex while some seem to come out unscathed. Following up on some survivors of sexual violence, it indicated that they relapse when they encounter similar situations as those that exposed them to sexual harassment in their past, hence raising the question on whether ‘healing is possible? The study recommended setting up of policies on sexual harassment as well as counselling structures to ensure psychological wellness of survivors.