The case of Landen Gambill is all over the media; it has been reported mostly uncritically and for the most part in an extremely partisan fashion on both sides of the Atlantic. The headline in the London Daily Mail
reads Rape victim's fury as she faces being expelled from college because she 'INTIMIDATED' her alleged attacker by speaking out about her ordeal
. As is often the case with such stories, there is a dearth of particularity, so it is difficult for the uninformed reader to make a meaningful assessment of what happened, or didn't. However, there are sufficient facts in the public domain for the skeptical reader to conclude that as usual there is a lot more to the story than meets the eye, and that Miss Gambill in particular has not told the whole truth.
The bare facts are as follows, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student Landen Gambill made an allegation of rape against a fellow student. She did not report this alleged rape to the police, but to the University authorities in accordance with the correct
procedure. Herein lies the real problem, to which we will return in due course.
Gambill's allegation was investigated by an internal court, which found her claims to be without merit. Claims being the word rather than claim. Aggrieved, Gambill decided to go public, although she did not name the fellow student she had accused. Her spilling the beans to the wider world has contravened a code put in place to ensure the institution's dirty laundry is not washed in public, as a result of which she has been threatened with expulsion.
This is a very different picture from the one painted by the media with a broad brush.
The important word in the Daily Mail
headline is "alleged"; it is extremely easy to make allegations, including of the most grave sexual improprieties; it is another thing entirely to prove them. Ask Lord McAlpine
Although Gambill has not named her alleged attacker, his name will be common currency, and quite likely mud all over the University, at least with those female students who have taken Gambill at face value.
It has to be said, the lady is no shrinking violet; she has already set up a Facebook page
for survivors of sexual violence. Why is it that every alleged rape victim or victim of indecent assault must be alluded to nowadays as a survivor? No Landen, you are not a survivor, in law you are not even a victim. Naomi Oni
is a survivor. How many proven rape victims would willingly change places with her?
The allegations Gambill makes against her unnamed assailant are not that he ambushed her in the park and raped her at knifepoint. Here she is sounding off to the student newspaper
about the adjudication:
“They made it seem like my assault was completely my fault.”
According to the paper: "As a freshman, Gambill was continually abused — sexually and verbally — by her long-term boyfriend.
When the relationship ended, she said she was met with months of stalking, threats and harassment."
Continually? Verbal abuse can of course mean anything the "victim" wants it to mean. With regard to the alleged sexual abuse, even in 21st Century America there are women who can be trapped in abusive relationships, let's be clear about that. But Gambill was not a housewife tied down with three kids and dependent on her husband to provide for her and them. She was a student on campus; if she didn't want her ex-boyfriend around she could and should have made it perfectly clear, and what could he have done about it? How could he have abused her sexually for a long period? A one-off assault or act of rape, yes, but that is not what was alleged here.
It appears the internal tribunal did as good a job as could be expected under the circumstances. One of its members asked her: “Landen, as a woman, I know that if that had happened to me, I would’ve broken up with him the first time it happened. Will you explain to me why you didn’t?’”
That sounds perfectly reasonable. Her answers did not, and the adjudication concluded that her claims were without merit, or at the very least that they had not been proved. Reading between the lines, they thought she was a bit of a flake, apparently with good reason.
This is not meant to demean her, in this day and age we are all a bit mad, we have to be, but should a student be "convicted" of such serious allegations on the whim of an emotionally or mentally disturbed young woman without corroborating physical evidence, corroborating witnesses, or corroborating anything? Hopefully not. If you are still inclined to believe this was some kind of miscarriage of justice, think Brian Banks
So what is to be done? In this case, nothing, Miss Gambill has had her pound of flesh, the fellow student who clearly didn't rape her will already have found his name is mud, and the gullibles of cyberspace are weeping for her. In the longer term, rape - when it can be proved - is a serious offence. In many countries it can carry a life sentence in extreme cases, so it is not to be alleged lightly, and it should not be investigated by internal committees either of universities or of some joke political party
Some women are just plain dumb, but no university student has that excuse. If a student or any woman is raped she should proceed immediately to either a police station, or to a hospital where the police will be informed and where forensic evidence can be preserved. A woman who makes an allegation of rape weeks, months or even years after the event diminishes her credibility, and rightly so. Strip away all the hysteria, and at the end of the day rape is a serious physical assault. If you were to walk into a police station and claim to have been assaulted by your neighbour, a workmate or a stranger, and asked when this assault occurred you replied "Three weeks ago", what response would you expect?
It is time intelligent women and even dumb ones wised up and stopped attempting to use allegations of rape and other sexual offences as a club to batter men - individuals or the entire sex - over the head. Rape is a crime against the person and should be treated as any other. Allegations of rape backed up by credible evidence should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and when convicted, a rapist should be sentenced in the same manner, but we should not lower the burden of proof or allow either sexual politics or demented women to subvert the legal process, much less the fabric of society.