On Jan­u­ary 21, Buz­zfeed News pub­lished a detailed sto­ry about sex­u­al vio­lence against stu­dents at women’s col­lege Spel­man by stu­dents at neigh­bor­ing men’s col­lege More­house. The two col­leges, among the high­est ranked his­tor­i­cal­ly black col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties (or HBCUs) in the coun­try, are often joint­ly referred to as ‘Spel­House’. But beneath the facade of broth­er­li­ness is a per­sis­tent and trou­bling his­to­ry of sex­u­al vio­lence. Using the sto­ries of two Spel­man stu­dents who came for­ward after being raped by More­house stu­dents, Buz­zfeed reporter Ani­ta Bade­jo explores the sex­u­al assault cul­tures and poli­cies at Spel­House. Here are some sur­pris­ing things she found;

1. After Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden spoke at Morehouse’s cam­pus against sex­u­al vio­lence a More­house stu­dent wrote a wide­ly-cir­cu­lat­ed “sex­u­al con­sent form”. It includes the lines; “By sign­ing this I (hoe sig­na­ture) will not spread mis­lead­ing truths and/or ignomious [sic] lies. If found in vio­la­tion of this con­sent form I (hoe sig­na­ture) will be indict­ed and pros­e­cut­ed accord­ing­ly as well as be exposed cam­pus wide as a lying bitch.”

https://twitter.com/DanyelleRCarter/status/664567268584591360/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
https://twitter.com/DanyelleRCarter/status/664567268584591360/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

2. When a Spel­man stu­dent report­ed being gang-raped by More­house stu­dents in 1996, a More­house chap­lain sug­gest­ed she brought it on her­self.

“In 1996, a Spel­man stu­dent report­ed being gang-raped by four More­house stu­dents, which spawned tough talk at More­house about the unac­cept­abil­i­ty of abus­ing women. Yet there was also over­whelm­ing sup­port on cam­pus for the men, includ­ing the sug­ges­tion from a chapel dean dur­ing a wor­ship ser­vice that “women bring abuse upon them­selves because of their atti­tudes and their dress.”” 

3. When two Spel­man stu­dents report­ed being raped in 2006, Morehouse’s stu­dent gov­ern­ment demand­ed an apol­o­gy from Spel­man stu­dents for the protests that fol­lowed.

“Ten years lat­er, in 2006, two Spel­man stu­dents report­ed that they had been indi­vid­u­al­ly raped by More­house stu­dents. As chron­i­cled by the doc­u­men­tary Bro­ken Social Con­tracts, made by a Spel­man grad­u­ate, Morehouse’s Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment Asso­ci­a­tion issued a state­ment con­demn­ing sub­se­quent protests and demand­ing an apol­o­gy from Spel­man activists for what Kuum­ba described as “dis­turb­ing their intel­lec­tu­al atmos­phere.” One More­house stu­dent react­ed by com­ment­ing, “At least it was More­house sperm.””

4. A Spel­man stu­dent who tweet­ed about the issue of sex­u­al assault at Spel­House was ordered to “cease and desist” by Morehouse’s dean.

“Melanie’s room­mate and best friend, Yemisi “Yemi” Miller-Ton­net, has felt sim­i­lar dis­ap­point­ments with Spelman’s admin­is­tra­tion. Yemi, who sur­vived a sex­u­al assault in high school that she didn’t report, said she has sev­er­al friends besides Melanie at Spel­man who’ve been assault­ed by More­house stu­dents. At one point, in March 2014, she tweet­ed, “I am only a fresh­man and I per­son­al­ly know 3 peo­ple who have been raped by a man of More­house. What are we going to do to stop this?” She was angry, but unsur­prised, when a More­house stu­dent respond­ed, ask­ing her to stop for risk of ruin­ing Morehouse’s image. “The rapists that are on Your cam­pus are who’s tar­nish­ing your image sir,” she replied. “Direct your com­ments toward your broth­ers.”

How­ev­er, Yemi was tak­en aback when, two days lat­er, Dean Fer­gu­son emailed her regard­ing an “alleged vio­la­tion.” A More­house stu­dent had read Yemi’s tweets, in which she had nei­ther named any­one nor used any iden­ti­fiers, and nev­er­the­less thought they were refer­ring to him. “The young man alleges that you are call­ing him a rapist online when no case has been adju­di­cat­ed to deter­mine respon­si­bil­i­ty,” Fer­gu­son wrote. “Please see me imme­di­ate­ly.” She asked that, until the meet­ing, Yemi “cease and desist with all activ­i­ty.” Yemi said she ulti­mate­ly received no pun­ish­ment for the tweets, but that she was encour­aged to chan­nel her ener­gy into cam­pus-sanc­tioned pro­gram­ming rather than address­ing the issue online. She has per­sist­ed, how­ev­er, to con­tin­ue to tweet about sex­u­al vio­lence at Spel­House.”

5. When Spel­man stu­dent Vic­to­ria Hall report­ed her rape, she was ques­tioned by a Col­lege Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee that was most­ly male and includ­ed More­house stu­dents.

“After read­ing a per­son­al state­ment of what had hap­pened that night, Vic­to­ria said she was bar­raged with ques­tions from the stu­dents, many of which made her feel as if she was the one whose con­duct was in ques­tion.
“Why were you in his room at 9 at night?”
“Well, if you weren’t there to have sex, then why did you go?”
“What were you wear­ing?””

Victoria Hall Photo Credit: Buzzfeed News
Vic­to­ria Hall
Pho­to Cred­it: Buz­zfeed News

6. Hall’s attack­er was found in vio­la­tion of More­house pol­i­cy on sex­u­al assault, but not expelled from the school.

“His pun­ish­ment: 40 hours of unspec­i­fied com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice and the com­ple­tion of an “online sex­u­al harass­ment train­ing pro­gram and More­house College’s vio­lence against women pro­gram.”

Accord­ing to the More­house pam­phlet “What Col­lege Men Should Know About Sex­u­al Assault Rape and Sex­u­al Bat­tery,” the “like­ly” out­come of a stu­dent being found respon­si­ble for com­mit­ting sex­u­al assault is sus­pen­sion or expul­sion.”

7. When Hall chose to report her rape to police More­house claimed they lost her inci­dent report and did not know where her attack­er was (although he was still enrolled at the time.)

“Because More­house has a police depart­ment, it’s cus­tom­ary for them to con­duct inves­ti­ga­tions before refer­ring cas­es to city author­i­ties for fur­ther action. Yet when she went to More­house in order to press charges, they told her they had lost her orig­i­nal inci­dent report… Though her assailant, a senior, was two weeks away from grad­u­at­ing, she said the offi­cers told her that they didn’t know where he was.” 

8. More­house has made steps to improve its record on sex­u­al assault but it is cur­rent­ly under inves­ti­ga­tion by the Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion for vio­lat­ing Title IX, which pro­hibits sex dis­crim­i­na­tion in edu­ca­tion.

“[Morehouse’s gen­er­al coun­sel and chief of staff Lacre­cia] Cade, who arrived at More­house in 2014, said the col­lege has made a num­ber of steps in the past year, includ­ing using local inves­ti­ga­tors for Title IX cas­es (rather than some­one out of state, like Hous­ton), con­duct­ing joint inves­ti­ga­tions with Spel­man, and insti­tut­ing the online cam­pus train­ing pro­gram Haven for first-year stu­dents, ath­letes, res­i­dent advis­ers, stu­dent lead­ers, and fac­ul­ty.”

9. More­house pres­i­dent John Sil­vanus Wil­son Jr. has expressed hes­i­tance to place full blame for sex­u­al assault on More­house stu­dents, invok­ing false rape report­ing and stereo­types about black men.

“Pres­i­dent Wil­son also brought up false report­ing claims. “It’s a tightrope, because you on the oth­er hand don’t want them to think, Wow, all I have to do is accuse some­one to get back at them. … You’ve got to priv­i­lege truth.” (The most wide­ly accept­ed sta­tis­tics put the per­cent­age of false rape reports at 2–8%.)

He also dis­missed the idea that a fear of pathol­o­giz­ing stu­dents at an all-black men’s school would keep Spel­man­ites from com­ing for­ward, or keep More­house from fair­ly adju­di­cat­ing their cas­es. “That is com­plete­ly absurd,” he said. “The mat­ter of fact is we have a cam­pus of young men and some of them are going to use bad judg­ment and some of them are going to use very bad judg­ment, and they’re not pro­tect­ed by the expec­ta­tions that we have for them.” But he also cau­tioned, “There’s a stereo­type [about] black males and you can walk right into it with a sto­ry like this.””

10. Some feel the sys­tem is set up to pro­tect More­house stu­dents, both from pros­e­cu­tion and racial­ized por­tray­als of black men as rapists, at the expense of Spel­man stu­dents.

“[They’re] try­ing to pro­tect More­house at the expense of Spel­man, which doesn’t make any sense to me,” [Yemisi “Yemi” Miller-Ton­net] said. “It’s just a real­ly deep-root­ed sense of pro­tect­ing the black man. … But every­one is vic­tim­iz­ing the black woman, and where is that nar­ra­tive?”

“As is char­ac­ter­is­tic of respectabil­i­ty pol­i­tics, the pur­pose of Morehouse’s con­ser­v­a­tive def­i­n­i­tions for how the mod­el black man should look, think, and act has his­tor­i­cal­ly been to defend its stu­dents against the stereo­types and scruti­ny of a soci­ety that broad­ly crim­i­nal­izes them. “[It’s] this idea of one that was suit­ed and boot­ed and had on bow ties and was able to speak the King’s Eng­lish and nego­ti­ate with­in this broad­er con­text of white rule,” [More­house Psy­chol­o­gy Chair David Wall] Rice said. Giv­en the U.S.’s long his­to­ry of por­tray­ing black men as aggres­sive — and as rapists of white women — con­ver­sa­tions about the ways in which some black men may nev­er­the­less vio­late black women can feel next to impos­si­ble. “It’s hard to under­stand your gen­der priv­i­lege when you are in very bla­tant ways oppressed because of race,” said Jami­la Lyn, a More­house Eng­lish pro­fes­sor who teach­es the intro­duc­to­ry writ­ing course “Writ­ing as Com­mu­ni­ty Activism: Reimag­in­ing Black Mas­culin­i­ty, End­ing Sex­u­al Vio­lence.” She not­ed how recent activism around black extra­ju­di­cial killings and the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment have large­ly left out the expe­ri­ences of black women. “The attack is [seen as] against black men. They’re the mov­ing tar­gets.”

At Spel­man, stu­dents must bal­ance the osten­si­ble empow­er­ment that comes from being on a cam­pus full of young black women with the expec­ta­tion that they nev­er­the­less align them­selves with the inter­ests of their broth­ers next door. “One thing about Spel­man that has to be made clear is it is a women’s col­lege, but it’s not a fem­i­nist col­lege,” said [asso­ciate direc­tor of Spelman’s Women’s Research and Resource Cen­ter M. Bahati] Kuum­ba.”

Spelman students Melanie and Victoria. Both of their Morehouse attackers were found to have violated them, but faced little to no punishment.
Spel­man stu­dents Melanie and Vic­to­ria. Both of their More­house attack­ers were found to have vio­lat­ed them, but faced lit­tle to no pun­ish­ment.
Pho­to Cred­it: Buz­zfeed News

11. Some Spel­man stu­dents fear speak­ing out about their assaults for fear of being seen as race trai­tors.

Yemi, sit­ting on the couch beside her, agreed. At HBCUs like Spel­man and More­house, she explained, the bur­den to pro­tect the rep­u­ta­tions of their col­leges is not only felt by admin­is­tra­tors, but also by stu­dents. “What it means to pre­serve the image of an HBCU means a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent thing than what it means to pre­serve the image of a white col­lege,” she said. For black stu­dents at black col­leges, speak­ing out becomes not only a reflec­tion of their school, but also of their entire race. Among the ques­tions Yemi asks her­self when she speaks pub­licly about Spel­House: Is some­one going to racial­ize this? Are they going to inter­pret it in a way that’s based on stereo­types and stig­mas that I don’t want to be applied?

You can read the full report here. Ladies, please share your thoughts.

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­liste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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19 Comments on "11 Shocking Revelations from Buzzfeed’s Exposé on Sexual Assault of Spelman Students by Morehouse Students"

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PoeticInjustice

You can’t be pro black with­out being pro black women.

Bri
I think peo­ple are not get­ting the point. Race is not race. It mat­ters in every facet of life and yes even in rape cas­es. Why does it mat­ter? Because it’s systemic,Due Process is often effect­ed but in the case of these vic­tims race plays a major role on the inter­nal and exter­nal con­flict they bat­tle. Black Woman…sets the tone per­fect­ly it describes what you are before who you are and some­times what one may con­sid­er best for one part of self con­flicts with oth­ers. How­ev­er, in this case it looks like they(the insti­tu­tions) used the racism as a tool… Read more »
Tanaquil
Exactly.Don’t com­plain about the White media cor­rob­o­rat­ing stereo­types, then go out and prove them right. Don’t tell us, as women, that we should look up to women like Oprah and the FLOTUS and become doc­tors and lawyers while you’re out here impreg­nat­ing strip­pers and hoodrats and thots. Don’t tell us we should love our­selves and our flaws while you’re out here prais­ing light skin women, clown­ing dark skin women, call­ing our nat­ur­al hair “nap­py” when you have the exact same tex­ture on your head, and dat­ing White women but call­ing us bed wench­es when we date White men. Lead by… Read more »
Tanaquil

Race, schmace. Rape is rape and the despi­ca­ble peo­ple who com­mit­ted it and/or swept it under the rug for what­ev­er unac­cept­able rea­son need to be brought to jus­tice. Every race of peo­ple have both neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive stereo­types linked to them and that will nev­er stop. Nev­er put your cred­i­bil­i­ty and men­tal well-being in jeop­ardy for any­one.

lis

Yes Mer­ry, unfor­tu­nate­ly I agree.…Black women won’t do any­thing but com­plain and act like vic­tims on the inter­net and off the inter­net.

cerulean blue 86

for starters, stop play­ing games and get armed. Learn to fight and use a weapon. Ain’t nobody else com­ing to save us but us. Defend our­selves first…ask ques­tions lat­er. And sec­ond­ly, women need to stop throw­ing each oth­er under the bus to pro­tect & defend men or get the hell away from women who do.

lis

No…look.…women can­not go up against men one on one.…that’s tv…In real life that will get you killed.….men, even short small ones are very strong.…..The solu­tion for me is to get away from them. …leave.…huge country…sigh

cerulean blue 86

You’re absolute­ly right. the ulti­mate solu­tion is to leave and get away from them. Some women in Kenya did just that and start­ed the Umo­ja vil­lage that bans men. But Learn­ing to use a weapon or some moves is bet­ter than not know­ing any­thing. It’s not to have a one on one Mor­tal Com­bat street fight to the death, it’s just enough to defend yourself/slow attack­er down, etc.

lis

I agree babes.

TWA4now

Rape is rape! It’s a crime and.voliation of.ones sexual.space and.freedom to.say NO AND.MEAN IT!!! The bank.carries mon­ey, the doors are usu­al­ly open, that doesn’t.mean it’s ok to rob them. MORE.training is needed…even.before they hit col­lege. My poem: No means no black or brown. No.means.no short or long skirt to the ground. No means no sober or drunk. No means no 3 PM or 3 AM. No means no. No.one ASK for it.. pro­tect­ing the guilty so it looks like they are being.punished while the inno­cent won­der why are the get­ting off vir­tu­al Scott free.…NO MEANS NO!

lis

I real­ly sym­pa­thize with the stu­dents but this isn’t sur­pris­ing, giv­en black cul­ture and the black community’s deval­u­a­tion of Black women.…The ques­tion is WHAT ARE BLACK WOMEN GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?.…

drjay_allday
It’s inter­est­ing that a dis­tinc­tion was made in the arti­cle between Spel­man being a women’s col­lege and NOT a fem­i­nist col­lege. As if the pro­mo­tion of advance­ment, equal­i­ty and jus­tice for women is a “fem­i­nist” ide­al that one should dis­as­so­ci­ate one­self from. Per­haps if Spel­man and More­house were “fem­i­nist” col­leges and val­ued black women as equals there would be an oppor­tu­ni­ty to work against this cul­ture of sex­u­al assault. This unspo­ken accep­tance of sex­u­al assault behav­ior will breed a future of black male and female lead­ers who have no respect or con­sid­er­a­tion for black women. Then where will we be… Read more »
lis

Well.…your last sentence.…..that day has already come. …I’d say about decades ago.….

Anon

I attend Spel­man Col­lege and I must say this is true. More­house sweeps any sex­u­al assault com­mit­ted by it’s stu­dents under the rug to main­tain their image. Their own stu­dents have been assault­ed by class­mates and they have done noth­ing. It’s bad enough to go to a school next door to the school of your assaulter imag­ine him being in your class or dorm with you walk­ing around with­out fear of pun­ish­ment. It’s hap­pen­ing and it’s sad that More­house is so focused on rep­u­ta­tion they do not care about the safe­ty of my sis­ters or their own stu­dents.

Yurilyte

More black men try­ing to silence black women for the “greater good” smh. It’s always about uplift­ing and pro­tect­ing black men, even at the expense of black women. And black women are expect­ed to sit there and take this abuse even as black men con­tin­ue to deride us pub­licly and pri­vate­ly.

lis

YEP.……WHAT ARE BLACK WOMEN GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

merry

not a damn thing.

cryssi

It’s dis­turb­ing.

While read­ing this I ground my teeth so hard my mouth is soar. I didn’t even real­ize I was doing it.

ambi

how sad and disgusting.…once again no one pro­tects black women

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