Lawsuit Claims Howard University Failed To Protect Rape Victims

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Howard University is considered to be one of the top HBCUs in the nation, earning the school the nickname “Mecca” due to its elite status. Aside from its reputation, many students of color choice to attend Howard because they feel that they will be protected from many racial issues they could possibly face at a PWI. Attending Howard University has many benefits, however, there is no such thing as a perfect university, and HU is no exception to that rule. Five women (referred to as Jane Doe 1 to 5 in the lawsuit) are currently suing Howard University, claiming that the university failed to properly investigate their sexual assault claims, provide counseling services, and a safe environment for them after they brought the assaults to the university’s attention.

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Out of the five women, Jane Doe 1 and 2 where raped by the same male student, who allegedly was accused of sexual misconduct at UCLA prior to him transferring to Howard. An appalling fact about Doe 1 and 2 is that Jane Doe 2 reported her rape almost 6 months before Jane Doe 1 was assaulted. Had the University took measure to remove the male student from campus after the first report they could have potentially prevented the second raping from happening. Instead (according to Jane Doe 2) the university not only allowed her rapist to stay on campus as an RA, but they also took months to reply back to Doe 2 seeking updates about her case, and revoked her financial aid once she went public about the rape. Jane Doe 2 gave a statement to BuzzFeed news stating “When I was there, I felt like no one believed me. I felt like they were always on his side, they always believed his story, they were protecting him. It was all him, him, him.”

Jane Doe 1 claims Howard University officials gave her the run around when she was seeking updates about her case as well. She became so frustrated with way the university was treating her that she took to twitter to vent about everything on March 21st 2016, bringing to light her alleged assault. One of her tweets stated, “this is why people don’t say nothing. they wanna avoid all this unnecessary bullshit.” The following day, many students at Howard came together and protested on campus, showing solidarity for Jane Doe 1 and all she was going though. According to Doe 1, Howard University officials weren’t too happy with her going public about her assault however, and the lawsuit states that Howard’s Dean of Student Affairs told her, “You embarrassed your family by doing that.” Doe 1 claims she was also fired from her RA job after going public.

Jane Doe 3 dated a HU campus police officer who both sexually and physically assaulted her. According to the lawsuit, she told the school in November of 2014 and asked for counseling due to suicidal thoughts she was dealing with after the assault. Sadly, however Howard University ignored her calls for some time and never followed through with arranging counseling for her.  Howard University also fell short when it came to making academic accommodations for the victims as they dealt with the aftermath of their assaults. According to Jane Doe 3 and 4, the university did give them a letter they could show professors for academic accommodations however the university did not force the professors to follow through when they refused to adjust due dates for the victims.

Aishah Shahidah Simmons, a filmmaker, stated in an interview for BuzzFeed “I think that’s the travesty: that you have black women and men applying and going to HBCUs, believing that they’re going to be safe, but they’re only thinking honestly about racism. It’s unfortunate they are applying, trying to escape the other forms of violence on PWIs and still confronted with this form of violence. This notion that an HBCU is a safe space in terms of race — it is a safe space, but until they incorporate anti-rape work, it is not a safe space on gender-based violence.”

While you’re at College you should feel safe any and everywhere you may be on campus and if you don’t then your school is not doing its job. According to this lawsuit, Howard University is sadly failing its students and not living up to the reputation it worked so hard to build.  Hopefully Howard University has learned that pushing an incident under the rug won’t cause it to go away, and prayerfully the victims will get the justice they deserve.

Twila-Amoure McDaniel29 Posts

Twila-Amoure McDaniel is a college student who is majoring in both communications and film studies. When she isn't in class she is more than likely somewhere making videos for her YouTube channel. Her passions include writing, art, and film-making and she currently has plans on going into the film industry. Twila-Amoure does have crohn's disease, however she is very determined not to allow that to stop her from achieving all of her goals in life. Be sure to follow her on all on her social media platforms @TwilaAmoure and feel free to browse through Campus Lately for more of her work.

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