Student’s sexual assault experience gathers attention on Twitter after university ‘failed to act’

Tweets emerge as universities across the US come under fire amid allegations leaders 'cover up' rape cases to protect reputations

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Wednesday 18 May 2016 12:47 BST
Spelman College president Mary Schmidt Campbell, pictured, reaches out to student to offer help and calls Twitter account 'disturbing' (via Spelman College/Facebook)
Spelman College president Mary Schmidt Campbell, pictured, reaches out to student to offer help and calls Twitter account 'disturbing' (via Spelman College/Facebook)

A student has reignited the topic of sexual assault on university campuses by turning to Twitter to share her harrowing story which has since gone viral.

The anonymous student - who says she is a first-year at Spelman College, part of the Atlanta University Centre (AUC) in the US - began the account under the handle @RapedAtSpelman, claiming the university failed to act when she raised the issue.

Describing how AUC students “blame and bash victims,” the woman wrote: “It’s sad I have to create a page to express myself rather than tweeting from my real account.

“This is my freshmen [sic] year at Spelman and my last year because I decided to leave after what happened to me.”

In a series of tweets, the student described how she was at a party with students from nearby Morehouse College, had too much alcohol, and went to the bathroom. She added: “When I opened the door, I was surrounded by 4 Morehouse students who took me to another room and took turns raping me.

“I was in shock about what had happened. I was drunk but that doesn’t mean I forgot about what happened.”

Since the account began to attract attention, Spelman College’s president, Mary Schmidt Campbell, reached out to the student on the social media site, urging her to reveal her identity to the president so she could offer her “full support and assistance.”

Issuing a statement to the student body, the president called the account “disturbing,” and added: “I know members of our Spelman community join me in expressing heartbreak and outrage over the incidents and experiences recounted on Twitter.

“We continue to follow leads to identify the victim to offer our help and services.”

The president then went on to highlight a series of measures, called Title IX, the college has in place to help victims of sexual violence. However, in a statement of her own, the anonymous student claimed both Spelman and Morehouse do not take cases as seriously as they say they do.

She said: “All the survivors at the AUC, if asked, would tell you there has been little to no progress on their Title IX cases.”

Morehouse president, John Silvanus Wilson, said in a statement the tweets were the college’s “very first indication” of the incident. He added: “At Morehouse, we take seriously all allegations of sexual assault and we are redoubling our efforts to ensure our students and students throughout AUC are encouraged to report any such incident.

“Now that we are aware of these allegations, we are determined to pursue the investigation to the fullest extent possible.

Inside Higher Ed has reported how the Spelman College case isn’t the only one gathering momentum, as victims from other institutions from across the country take to social media sites to highlight their own experiences following dissatisfaction over how universities are handling incidents.

Universities across the US have come under intense fire amid allegations institution leaders are covering up sexual violence cases in order to protect their reputations and commercial interests.

The issue was explored recently in an award-winning documentary-film, The Hunting Ground, in which victims and experts provided their own insights into on-campus rape culture, with one telling the film: “They [universities] protect perpetrators because they have a financial incentive to do so.”

Others claimed “sexual assault on campuses is enormous” and that “universities cover such crimes up” because they are “protecting a brand.”

Closer to home, in the UK, the distributor of the film told the Independent in September last year there was a similar and worrying trend of sexual assault on UK campuses and, referring to two NUS reports, added how one in seven (14 per cent) British women students is affected, compared with one in five (23 per cent) in the US.

Sexual violence in schools

Drinkaware also recently interviewed just over 2,000 UK students to find 54 per cent of females had received inappropriate sexual comments, abuse, or inappropriate sexual touching on a night out over a 12-month period.

Drinkaware’s CEO, Elaine Hindal, said: “Universities are well placed to support students who have experienced unwanted sexual attention and to campaign against it, but students are still more likely to tell a friend than anyone in authority.

“We encourage universities and young adults to reinforce the message that if a behaviour isn’t acceptable sober, it isn’t acceptable drunk.”

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