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Campaign calls on colleges to 'end rape culture'

Students from Morehouse, Spelman, and other colleges call for an end to sexual assault with #WeKnowWhatYouDid campaign.
Image: Spelman College
Students walk past the entrance to Spelman College on February 12, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.Tami Chappell / Reuters file

A campaign circulating around historically black colleges and campuses in Atlanta is calling for an end to sexual assault on campus.

Last week, flyers with the hashtag #WeKnowWhatYouDid, accusing individuals of sexual violence, were posted on campuses in the Atlanta University Contorsium — Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Clark Atlanta University — calling for administration officials to hold accused students accountable. They were later taken down by the police department, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

#WeKnowWhatYouDid suggests campus administrators are "protecting rapists" rather investigating allegations and supporting victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault, NBC affiliate WXIA reported.

Someone spray painted the Martin Luther King, Jr. chapel at Morehouse with “Practice what you preach Morehouse. End rape culture”. It was later covered with a tarp by campus police officers.

Spelman College president Mary Schmidt Campbell wrote a message to students and staff encouraging accusers to report complaints to campus police or officials in response to the allegations reminding everyone that “Spelman College has a zero-tolerance policy for any type of violence.”

Morehouse released a statement detailing its efforts to stop such acts, including programs to educate students about sexual assault and harassment.

"I encourage any person who has been impacted by sexual violence allegedly perpetrated by any Morehouse College student, faculty or staff member to come forward and file a complaint" interim president Harold Martin Jr. said in a community letter sent out last week.

He also addressed recent allegations during a forum Thursday.

"We know sexual violence and sexual harassment continue to be rampant in our workplaces and on our college campuses particularly among people who feel immune to justice," he said. “I’m not so naive to believe that’s not the case in the AUC or that it’s not the case at Morehouse College.”

Vowing to "do the work," Martin promised to educate the young men on campus, protect those who feel they have been violated, and fully investigate allegations before "jumping to judgment."

Students from all three colleges used hashtag #WeKnowWhatYouDid to share the flyers and the graffiti on Twitter. It was also used to share stories of sexual victimization, names of those accused, and express their frustrations with the administrators.

This conversation has even ignited a call to action, while others cannot help but call out the potential negative consequences of the campaign.

Kamren Rollins, Morehouse student body president, urged critics on Twitter to look beyond the presentation of the campaign and analyze the intent.

Over 70 Spelman faculty members penned an open letter showing support for students that was shared on Twitter Monday afternoon.

Dr. Moon Charania, an International Studies Professor at Spelman College, told NBC News “that feminist faculty unapologetically stand with our students as they raise their voices against sexual violence, against campus rape, and against the dismissal of black women's voices.”

This is not the first time these institutions have been at the center of national conversation surrounding rape on college campuses.

May 2016, anonymous Twitter account, @RapedAtSpelman, detailed an alleged gang rape of a Spelman student sparked outrage on social media.

“Sexual assault on college campuses, and more broadly in the US, is a widespread epidemic, one which we are only beginning to take seriously.” said Dr. Charania who teaches courses that discuss global violence against women, sexual trauma and feminist resistance. “What we are seeing, with both #metoo and #weknowwhatyoudid, is only the tip of a very large and very nasty iceberg called hetero-patriarchy.”