Last month, University of North Carolina (UNC) sophomore Landen Gambill, along with 65 other UNC students, filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. The complaint claims that the university violated their rights under the Campus Sexual Assault Victims' Bill of Rights
and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
(FERPA). They also claim UNC is in violation of Title IX
by discriminating against sexual assault victims.
Gambill also spoke with the campus newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, saying in addition to the rape, it was the treatment she received by the university that was the last straw, causing her to experience panic attacks, flashbacks and paranoia. She went on to say
“If I had known what would happen to me through this system, I don’t know if I would have made the same decision again. It’s just become a game in which I have had to fight to receive information and general respect that I believe I should automatically be granted as a victim of a violent crime.”
Ten days after filing the complaint, Gambill was notified via email that she may be in violation of the university's Honor Code, saying she engaged in "disruptive or intimidating behavior" against her alleged rapist. Knowing she had not revealed the name of her alleged rapist, despite the fact he lives across the street from her, she continued to share her story, believing she had done nothing wrong.
On Friday however, she received an email from Elizabeth Ireland, the Graduate & Professional Schools Student Attorney General, saying the matter was being referred to the Honor Court. The email stated
Gambill was being charged with the following Honor Code violation:
"Disruptive or intimidating behavior that willfully abuses, disparages, or otherwise interferes with another....so as to adversely affect their academic pursuits, opportunities for University employment, participation in University-sponsored extracurricular activities, or opportunities to benefit from other aspects of University Life."
The email continued by saying if found guilty, Gambill could face expulsion or permanent suspension.
When Gambill went to the preliminary Honor Court hearing, she asked the court if it would be considered a violation of the Honor Code if she had simply said "I was raped". The court responded by telling her, "yes".
Gambill told the Huffington Post
"Obviously, I'm afraid. I never meant to make anyone mad at me [by speaking out]. I'm mostly surprised at just how crazy it is, that they're willing to charge me with something just because my rapist is feeling uncomfortable."
When questioned about the case, UNC spokeswoman, Susan Hudson, said the university could not comment on the matter, citing federal privacy laws. She insisted that the charges against Gambill is in no way retaliatory, and that UNC is committed to "providing policies and procedures that are fair for everyone."
An editorial about the case was published in UNC's student magazine, Campus BluePrint. In it, editor-in-chief Carey Hanlin writes
"This saga hasn't been about revenge. It was just about justice, and more importantly about prevention. But when Landen initially pressed charges against her abuser with the UNC Honor Court, she was met with resistance and hostility.
UNC has the potential at this point to stand up for sexual assault survivors. It has the potential to be a beacon of change for our nation. By telling Landen Gambill that she could face expulsion for saying that she was raped, by denying the allegations that administrators ignored the best interests of sexual assault survivors, and by implying that it is not acceptable to challenge the school system on its inability to help survivors of sexual assault, UNC fails to be a beacon."
A Change.org petition has been started on behalf of Gambill and other university rape vicitms. The petition says
UNC students have been met with hostility, victim blaming and a lack of support by some administrators when reporting sexual assault and harassment. It continues by saying:
" Survivors have been re-victimized by a system that strives for surface compliance, but that in practice, contributes to their trauma and the tolerance of sexual violence."
Anyone wishing to sign the petition can do so here
Gambill told Jezebel
"The reason why I'm so vocal about this isn't because I just want justice for my case. I want to make sure no one else has to go through this if they want to report an assault to the university."
*Note: It is not the practice of this journalist to reveal the names of sexual assault victims. However, because of Ms. Gambill's willingness to use her name publicly and speak about her experience, an exception was made in this instance.*