"Rape is like football."
That’s what the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told at least one victim of rape anyway. Several victims have come forward to describe the way in which the school mishandled and mistreated their sexual assault case. These students are part of a federal complaint against the school to the U.S. Department of Education. The school should be held accountable for its negligence and also for retaliating against a rape victim who dared to speak out.
Annie Clark is one of the victims involved in the complaint against the school. She appeared on CNN to discuss the way a school administrator handled her sexual assault allegation. “She told me rape is like football, and if you look back on the game what would you have done differently in that situation?”
Pro-tip to all the school administrators out there: Don’t turn rape into a simile.
There are a total five individuals who are party to the complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education. One of those other individuals is Landen Gambill. Landen faces possible expulsion for violating UNC’s honor code. The school claims that Gambill is guilty of creating an environment that intimidates her alleged rapist. Yes, rapists should be allowed to walk around freely, with their head held high. How dare this rape victim speak about her assault publicly, how dare she ask for even a modicum of justice and empathy for her and fellow victims of sexual assault.
The school is clearly retaliating against Gambill who has been extremely vocal about the schools mishandling of sexual assault cases. UNC-Chapel Hill is trying very hard to silence Landen and other victims of sexual assault. UNC’s behavior amounts to nothing more than the defense of rapists.
Landen’s complaint against her rapist was dismissed in UNC-Honor Court. Why didn’t Landen pursue this case in criminal court? Well, the school told her not to until the Honor Court had made its ruling. UNC’s Honor Court is a student-run judiciary that completely fails in its promise to conduct fair and impartial trials.
Landen has also filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education asking the schools Chancellor Holden Thorp to dismiss the honor code violations against her. Gambill has never publicly stated the name of her alleged rapist. How exactly her behavior could amount to her rapist feeling intimidated requires a stretch of the imagination beyond that which I am personally capable. The school claims it has no say in what charges the Honor Court agrees to hear. That's not entirely true, the school has the ultimate in say in deciding what charges are filed in Honor Court. The fact that the school has entertained this claim is highly suspect.
UNC-Chapel Hill vehemently denies under-reporting reports. Former dean of students Melinda Manning—who is part of the federal complaint—says that she was told to under-report the number of sexual assault cases. Federal investigators have agreed to look at the charges filed against the school and will be meeting with school officials later in March.
The gross mishandling of sexual assault cases by UNC-CH, is but another example of why colleges must reexamine and rewrite their policies on how to deal with sexual assault. Comparing rape to football diminishes the crime and the trauma associated with it. It shows a cavalier attitude towards rape by school administrators. If they can’t take rape seriously, how can they expect their student population to?
A petition has been started by students at UNC-CH to stand with Landen Gambill and other victims of sexual assault. Victims of sexual violence who speak up should be encouraged—not punished—for doing so.