ONTD Political

University Of North Carolina Routinely Violates Sexual Assault Survivor Rights, Students Claim

11:54 am - 01/19/2013
University Of North Carolina Routinely Violates Sexual Assault Survivor Rights, Students Claim

On March 10, 2012, Andrea Pino says she was raped at an off-campus party. She wasn't drunk and was only there to look after a friend, but because she suffered a concussion during the assault, she says she doesn't remember much beyond a hazy walk from the party back to her dorm room.

"I just woke up in my bed covered in blood and not knowing what happened," said Pino, now a junior at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Today she still doesn't know who he was.

She says she's suffered depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, but when she applied for medical withdrawal from her classes, Pino said the Academic Advising office told her she was "being lazy." Over the next several months, Pino heard similar tales from more than 60 other sexual assault survivors at UNC.

On Wednesday, Pino and UNC alumna Annie Clark, supported by fellow UNC student Landen Gambill -- all sexual assault survivors -- filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights on behalf of themselves and those 64 other victims, whose names are being kept confidential. Their complaint alleges UNC violated assault survivors' rights under the Campus Sexual Assault Victims' Bill of Rights, the Clery Act and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and equal opportunity mandates under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

They claim that UNC often acts as though no assault has taken place, protecting alleged rapists while victimizing students and disenfranchising assault survivor advocates.

Jonathan Sauls, dean of students at UNC-Chapel Hill, said they could not comment directly on any of the students' allegations because they have not yet been contacted by the U.S. Department of Education.

"We do take the issue of sexual assault seriously and have worked hard to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct with a process that is fair, effective and provides appropriate support and due process to both the accuser and the accused," Sauls said.

The university's treatment of sexual assault victims is among the reasons that UNC Associate Dean of Students Melinda Manning tendered her resignation last month. Manning told The Huffington Post that victims have been asked inappropriate questions or have been blamed for the incident. In one of the cases, she said, "it was judged because they had past consensual sex with that individual," there was consent and therefore no assault. She believes many students who sought help from the university wished that they had never done so.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking," Manning said. "Our job is to help these students, not hurt them."

Gambill says she went to the Dean of Students Office to report an abusive ex-boyfriend for stalking in March 2012. She filed a complaint with the university's Honor Court system in the hopes that it'd be faster and less complicated than the legal system. But when the trial came in May, Gambill said the students and faculty on the Honor Court were focused on why she hadn't done anything to stop the alleged abuse. Gambill recounted one female student on the Honor Court who said that as a woman, she would have broken up with the alleged abuser after the first incident.

"I expected that I would be believed and trusted, and that they wouldn't doubt my story and try to devaluate my story," Gambill said.

Gambill hadn't told her parents the "horrific and disturbing" truth, but she claims her student Honor Court representative did so without permission. While Gambill testified at her trial, she says her student rep gave her parents a confidential document she had written, which was intended to be used only as evidence in the Honor Court. "When I found out he had given it to them, I asked him why," Gambill said, recounting her outrage. She said that the student rep told her that he "thought they should know."

"It strained the relationship with my parents," Gambill said. "It definitely made their healing process more difficult."

Adam Goldstein, an attorney with the Student Press Law Center, said that the rep's actions would appear to be a clear violation of FERPA, a law meant to protect personal student records.

"This is one of the reasons ... law enforcement and the adjudication of rape cases in general does not lend itself to amateurs," Goldstein said.

Goldstein doesn't believe universities should evaluate allegations of sexual assault at all, but should simply provide counseling and support to victims. "They aren't good at determining when it happens, and when they do, they don't handle it well," Goldstein said.

In the best-case scenario, an alleged rapist will still be walking the streets after a university issues disciplinary action in the case of a sexual assault, Goldstein said, whereas, in the legal system, the same result is usually the worst-case scenario.

Tim Longest, a UNC senior who's worked with the student government in various capacities, said the current system is "defensive toward perpetrators and discounts victims."

UNC recently stopped using the Honor Court system to handle sexual assaults, but Longest said that he's spoken to many victims who are confused about the recourses available to them. That confusion, he said, "perpetuates a culture of silence."

Clark said the complaint is intended to improve not only UNC, which she says the complainants still love, but to instigate broader changes nationwide.

"I want this case at UNC to affect policies that are in effect at Oregon," Clark said. "You hear about Amherst, then it dies down; you hear about Yale, then it dies down. We're tired of it just popping up and everyone saying it's really horrible and then nothing happens."

Source || TP article || The Petition

OP: TP's article mentions the up to 35k fine for each incident of rape, which makes since in our culture today. It's always money.
catalana 19th-Jan-2013 11:58 pm (UTC)
*bashes head against the wall* Freaking academics. Why the hell do we always think we should handle this kind of thing ourselves? Gah.

(And, yeah, I realize it's probably administration that's doing this, not academics, but still...I love being a professor, but universities suck at so much, and their ability to handle sensitive matters like this is high on the list of suck.)

Edited at 2013-01-19 11:59 pm (UTC)
roseofjuly 22nd-Jan-2013 05:50 am (UTC)
You're a professor? This is kind of OT, but I want to be a professor myself. I have a year left in my doctoral program.
lurkch 20th-Jan-2013 06:28 am (UTC)
Why the hell are sexual assaults going through the university system rather than the LEGAL one?! I know post-secondary is its own little world, but this is really ridiculous (yet seems to be the norm in the US?).

[Edit: grammar nitpick]

Edited at 2013-01-20 06:29 am (UTC)
lady_tigerlily 20th-Jan-2013 11:15 am (UTC)
Money and reputations of the universities. Next is the fact that you have to specifically go out of your way to press charges and then the school is called into question because of it, and when uni liability comes into play, they start kow towing to whomever they need.

I went to a private university in Los Angeles, and I heard horror stories like this all the time. The school and campus safety always sends out PSAs about how women need to gird themselves against rape and assault rather than telling people to not fucking assault people, no matter who they are. The California definition of rape includes coercion and withdrawn consent, thankfully, but it's really no surprise, as disgusting as it is, that so many unis have this stupid blundering problem with handling sexual assault.
ljs_lj 20th-Jan-2013 04:48 pm (UTC)
Because for whatever ridiculous reason, college campuses are often considered private property or belonging to a separate jurisdiction (e.g. campus police - remember the pepper spray incident at UC Davis? Those were campus cops, not City of Davis cops), and local law enforcement has to be "invited" onto campus. Which is ridiculous, because - to draw an analogy - if something happens in the parking lot of a shopping center, local law enforcement usually doesn't have a problem showing up.

Not to mention the fact that universities and colleges have a vested interest in keeping crimes, especially sexual assaults, hushed up; the more you know about criminal activity on a particular campus, the less likely you will want to pay them ridiculous amounts of money to get an education there, and the less likely some famous or wealthy alum will want to give an endowment. Universities try to get you to go through an internal judiciary committee, as if sexual assault and plagiarism are comparable infractions of the school honor code. It keeps it internal and quiet.

At least, that's how I understand things.
furrygreen 20th-Jan-2013 05:27 pm (UTC)
local law enforcement has to be "invited" onto campus.

I always thought that was weird too. I've wondered if it was more of the "keep gov'n out of our higher learning institutions" type of thing. You know, the gov't is EVIL and will ruin our kids blahblah BLAH blah blah. (I try to pretend there's generally good reasons for the way people run things. It's a good fantasy.)

Universities try to get you to go through an internal judiciary committee, as if sexual assault and plagiarism are comparable infractions of the school honor code.

If you look at it from the perspective of sexual assault not being a real crime -- the current way this country views is -- than it's easy to see how this may be the case. Our whole societies cliched view on women in college is the "college girl". Much like "college boy", she just wants to get drunk and party. I'm sure they thing: "hey! the boys don't complain! If you didn't want to be rape than "

Add that mindset to the notion of up to a 35k fine for each incident (yeah, I realize they'd never get 1/20th of that) and whatever bad press there may be, than I can see why they'd try to push it under the rug. Rape is just one of those things at is SO easy to blame on the victim.

Of course, it's not as if the regular police are all that great about dealing with rape cases either. Forcing some victims to pay 1.2k to have a rape kit performed and even then, most agencies don't even test the kits.
lurkch 20th-Jan-2013 10:46 pm (UTC)
Add that mindset to the notion of up to a 35k fine for each incident {...}

That's ... definitely a disincentive. I didn't know about that but it sounds like a bad idea with predictable consequences.

Forcing some victims to pay 1.2k to have a rape kit performed and even then, most agencies don't even test the kits.

Um, what?! That's disgusting.
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