Members of the graduation class of 2013 stand during the commencement ceremony before US President Barack Obama delivers the key address at Morehouse College on May 19, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia — MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
When we read the stories about sexual assault on college campuses, mostly the face of this epidemic are white women who have been mostly raped by white men.
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But a recent Buzzfeed feature highlights the fact that this crisis is definitely impacting Black female students, especially those at HBCUs where the protection of Black male reputations seems to be prioritized over the sexual autonomy and safety of Black women.
Anita Badejo’s “Our Hands Are Tied Because Of This Damn Brother-Sisterhood Thing” specifically looks at the rape crisis happening at Atlanta’s historic Spelman College and Morehouse College. Talking to numerous survivors, faculty, and community members, Badejo paints a harrowing picture of Morehouse’s problematic policies and procedures, including the isolation and victim-blaming of Spelman students when they come forward and the unlikelihood that perpetrators will be handed down harsh punishments.
The culture that Badejo describes is one in which men on campus know they are untouchable, thus breeding more arrogance and contempt for Black women. This can be seen with the “hoe contract” that a male student made up to express his anger that Vice President Joe Biden came to their school to talk about consent.
Morehouse College student wrote up a violating sex contract bcus he was mad about Joe Biden's consent speech yester. pic.twitter.com/uGrfNNx4JY
So what’s being done about what’s going on? Depends on who you ask.
The president of Morehouse John Silvanus Wilson Jr. told Bodega he believes that his school is on top of it, that “under his watch” it’s impossible for any female student to feel that they are not being treated fairly, and that women can report false allegations to “get back” at someone so they have to be careful about how they proceed.
Yet, plenty of students on both campuses are not buying what Wilson is saying. They strongly believe that “ineffective institutional processes and Black cultural dynamics — has created a climate in which silence has become not only standard, but expected.”
One survivor admitted that she battled with whether or not to turn in her rapist—and even though she did, her case was dismissed.
“Melanie knew that by reporting, she risked ruining the image of a Morehouse Man. But if she—a student from small-town Florida who’d barely even heard people talk about sexual assault before Spelman, let alone experience it—could go through the process, she thought, her black, all-women’s college could help assure her case was being adjudicated fairly.”
The piece also touches upon the lack of data on rape at HBCUs, general Black attitudes about rape and how culturally we have a harder time seeing Black women as targets of oppression than we do Black men.
Given the nature of this peice, Twitter was buzzing, mostly with praise for the writer for helping shed light on a topic that often lives in the dark:
@AmazonCan not surprised either. The writer did her homework. The state of affairs for sexual assault victims @ Spelman is a sad sorry mess