Is a Major University Threatening Action Against a Student for ‘Intimidating’ Her Alleged Rapist?
A sophomore at the University of North Carolina claims she’s facing disciplinary action by the school after speaking out about her alleged rapist, a fellow student on campus and her ex-boyfriend.
Landen Gambill was one of 64 students named in a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights filed by the former University of North Carolina assistant dean of students and four students claiming the university pressured officials into underreporting cases of sexual assault.
Now Gambill says that, in publicizing her story and speaking to the press, UNC claims she’s “intimidating” her rapist and violating the school’s honor code.
She purportedly wrote this message on Facebook after receiving the violation alert, explaining her situation:
The Huffington Post was able to speak with Gambill and the school about the allegations:
“Obviously, I’m afraid. I never meant to make anyone mad at me [by speaking out],” Gambill told HuffPost. “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.”
UNC spokesperson Susan Hudson said in an email the university couldn’t comment about specifics in Gambill’s case because of federal privacy laws, but Hudson insisted this was in no way retaliation by the university.
Student attorneys general have the discretion to choose which cases should be considered by the court, Hudson said, and administrators “may not encourage or prevent” them from filing charges in a case. “Given that these charging decisions are made by student attorneys general and not by campus administrators, a claim of retaliation by the university would be without merit,” Hudson said.
The student attorney general’s office told HuffPost they were prohibited from discussing the details of any specific case. [Emphasis added]
But Gambill says school officials didn’t take her claims seriously from the beginning. She pressed charges with the Honor Court after breaking up with her allegedly abusive boyfriend, and says she was greeted with questions like: “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?’”
“They implied that I was emotionally unstable and couldn’t be telling the truth because I had attempted suicide,” she recalled.
According to local media, UNC no longer uses the student-run Honor Court to handle cases of sexual assault.
However, Gambill’s story is still inspiring outrage at UNC, and social media is already rallying behind her.
Carey Hanlin, the editor-in-chief of the progressive UNC student magazine Campus BluePrint, posted this editorial in support of the sophomore student:
…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 [of change]. The great “light on the hill” remains dark.
Many are specifically asking why “student attorneys” are the ones making potentially life-changing decisions in the Honor Court, allowing UNC administrators to disavow any responsibility from the case.
It’s unclear if Gambill has reached out to police regarding any rape incidents. Though she has declined to identify her alleged attacker by name, the fact that he was a longtime boyfriend should make him fairly easy to identify for local authorities.
In the meantime, UNC has launched an internal review of its policies, particularly in light of the recent claim filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
WRAL-TV has more on the story, including an interview with Gambill:
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