The Unspeakable Truth: The Reality of Sexual Assault at HBCUs

The statistics surrounding on campus sexual assault are staggering. At least 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college. Nine in 10 women sexually assaulted on college campuses know the perpetrator, and nearly 40 percent of cases reported are not investigated by colleges and universities. It is no wonder that 90 percent of these violent interactions are never reported. While strides have been made in bringing the epidemic of campus sexual assault out of the shadows and into the light of public concern, this conversation has largely centered around white students at elite institutions. Women of color are victims of campus sexual assault too and need to be included in definitions of who can be a victim and strategies for solutions.

While studies have shown that incidents of sexual assaults on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are lower than they are on the Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs), the rates we see at HBCUs are alarming and possibly even more underreported than those at PWIs. Uniquely intersectional dynamics at HBCU campuses can place additional barriers on students not to come forward about their assaults. “It's like you don't want to turn in the 'brother' who's doing well on campus," one student reported. "You know there's so few of them, and so maybe it's really not so bad." Addressing the societal and cultural differences that silence women at HBCUs is a matter of grave importance.

Join us as we break the silence on the unspeakable truth that Black women ARE experiencing campus sexual assault. Speakers include Jamilah Lemieux, Farah Tanis, and other intersectional advocates who will tackle these questions: How can we combat the media erasure of campus assault at HBCUs? How can we foster dialogue about gender-based violence in these spaces while avoiding racist tropes criminalizing Black youth? How can we expand widely accepted definitions of who can be a victim of sexual assault to include Black women?


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Jamilah Lemieux
Digital News and Lifestyle Editor for EBONY Magazine


Farah Tanis
Executive Director, Black Women's Blueprint


Synclaire Butler
Junior at Spelman College


Charnessa Ridley
Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator at North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault


Moderated by Kimberle Crenshaw
Executive Director and Founder, AAPF

What You Can Do To Help

Building the Capacity to Create Change

Know the issue. Understand the political environment:

Prepare yourself to be an Advocate:

  • Are you an HBCU student who cares about this issue? Work with peers and your university's 'Student Wellness' group to hold them accountable to:

Share Online:

  • Look to our 2016 social media guide to get ideas for sharing across platforms.
  • End Rape On Campus' Resources for survivors and how to help someone you know.
  • Use the hashtags #HerDreamDeferred and #SayHerName to connect with us on twitter to share your story, uplift others and respond to the discussion with questions or thoughts.

Surround Yourself with Resources to Learn and Share:

  • For Harriet article: “Sexual Assault and HBCUs: Deepening the Conversation”

  • Mic article: “These Challenges Are Why Sexual Assault at HBCUs Isn't Talked About Enough” (from Dec. 2015)

  • BuzzFeed article on silencing of victims of sexual assault at HBCUs (focus on Spelman and Morehouse)

  • Diverse: Issues in Higher Education article on HBCU Sexual Assault Study

  • National Institute of Justice Report: “The Historically Black College and University Campus Sexual Assault (HBCU-CSA) Study” (2010)

  • City Paper article: “Why are black women less likely to report rape?”

  • The Root article: “The Changing Culture of Sexual Assault on College Campuses”

  • Clutch article: “Sexual Assault Cases Are Lower at HBCUs, But That Doesn’t Stop Criticism”

  • Huffington Post article: “How Title IX Failed These Black Women Who Spoke Out About Their Rape Allegations”

  • Video interview of two women who brought charges and received no justice, Students Chardonnay Madkins and Synclaire Butler (<iframe src="" width="570" height="321" frameBorder="0" scrollable="no"></iframe>)

  • Report: “The Sexual Assault of Undergraduate Women at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)” (2011)

  • Maroon Tiger article: “Sexual Assaults on Black College Campuses”