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#RUReferenceList: 'There is a legitimacy to student response'

A researcher says universities have become a site of rape culture.

Rhodes University students show thier support for the Chapter 2.12 camapign against victim blaming and rape culture on campus on 12 April. Picture: EWN/Siyabonga Sesant

JOHANNESBURG - While concerns have been raised about a published list of alleged rapists at Rhodes University, an expert says higher institutions are in a 'fortunate' position to address the problem of rape culture in South Africa.

Protesting students at the Grahamstown campus have called on their vice chancellor to look at changing the definition of rape in the university's sexual assault policy saying it continues to normalise sexual violence against women.

Researcher at Stellenbosch University, Elisabet Le Roux, says the latest response by students who have opted to name and shame perpetrators should come as no surprise.

"Universities are actually settings in which rape culture can be amplified and exacerbated. We can debate on the ways people go about responding but the fact remains that rape culture on campuses is there and its bad and its really having such an enormous impact on so many people's lives."

Le Roux says our rape definitions are too narrow.

"If people hear rape they just think of male penetration of a female and we are really looking at sexual violence which is much more than that."

She says university management must also help engage students on the matter.

"What's great about university campuses is that it is an enclosed environment so if we can change this culture there is much more impact I think, than if we were working on the broader South African rape culture, but the start is to actually understand the particular forms and drives of rape culture on a particular campus."

Listen: South African universities are a site of rape culture.

The university's SRC has encouraged rape survivors to seek counseling at the university's facilities, and has responded to a call by students to have one of its members removed from his position.

A letter by the university's student body. Picture: Facebook.