Katherine Mangan, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 6, 2016
An anonymous report of an alleged gang rape of a Spelman College student by four students from neighboring Morehouse College has sparked protests and investigations by both institutions.
It’s also prompted an intense debate on social media over pressures some black women say they feel to protect black men from unfair stereotypes by keeping quiet about assaults.
When the institutions involved–in this case, two elite, historically black colleges that sit side by side in Atlanta–are viewed as sibling colleges, the sensitivities run deep.
The controversy began on Monday, when someone saying she was a Spelman freshman posted a series of tweets under the Spelman hashtag.
The user, who had more than 2,600 followers by Thursday afternoon, said she had attended an apparently off-campus party with friends.
“There were a lot of people there, and it was really fun, so we decided to drink with the upperclassmen,” she wrote. She was drunk, “but that doesn’t mean I forgot about what happened.”
When she emerged from a bathroom, where she went to throw up, she said she was “surrounded by four Morehouse students who took me to another room and took turns raping me.”
Both Spelman and Morehouse are among the 183 colleges being investigated by the Education Department for potential Title IX infractions in their handling of sexual-assault cases.
Students staged demonstrations at both campuses on Tuesday and flooded Twitter with reactions to the allegations. The posts were overwhelmingly supportive of the alleged victim, although a few said Morehouse’s name was being unfairly tarnished by the unproven accusations.
In an essay published online on Wednesday by Ebony magazine, Jamilah Lemieux, a commentator and cultural critic, wrote that similar complaints have cropped up at her alma mater, Howard University.
“It’s maddening to know that a young woman can tuck her hopes and dreams into a Spelman or Howard backpack, only to be violated by a classmate and then be re-violated by the school that is supposed to protect her,” she wrote. “It’s nauseating to know how many of her peers would blame her for what happened or prefer that she just remain silent in the interest of protecting the reputation of said institution and/or young black men.”
Dismissing allegations of rape against black men in order to protect them from unjust stereotypes would, she wrote, “reduce them to perpetual adolescents who are incapable of treating the opposite sex with respect.”