Will a UNC Rape Victim Get Kicked Out of School for Reporting Her Rapist?

When is rape not a crime? When happens at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, apparently

A female student at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is facing expulsion for creating an “intimidating environment” for the man who allegedly raped her -- her ex-boyfriend. Sophomore Landen Gambil, who says she also endured verbal and sexual abuse by her ex-boyfriend during their relationship, was told by campus officials that even reporting the rape to law enforcement could be seen as a violation of the UNC “honor code.”

Well, bake me a seven-layer WTF cake.

This is 2013, not 1973, right? Because back then, when men were legally allowed to beat their wives, the terms domestic abuse and sexual assault were just surfacing to the collective conscience. Even in the early 90s the phrase “date rape” was barely used. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen every single day; it was just called “a bad night.” Fast forward to the 21st century, when we have stalking, cyber stalking, roofies and binge drinking -- all of which put college women at risk for sexual violence. But this college is saying, if it happens to you, you can't report it.

Here’s why UNC might want to keep the lid on campus rapes. In 1990, Congress enacted the Jeanne Cleary Act, named for the 19-year-old Lehigh University freshman who was raped and murdered in her campus residence hall in 1986. The law requires that every October, colleges and universities provide their students with an Annual Security Report that lists the school's crime stats and their policies on campus security, response and victim support. There are stiff penalties for non-compliance. But no administration would deliberately fudge those numbers to make their schools look better, right?

Looks that way. Associate dean of students at UNC-Chapel Hill, Melinda Manning, claims she resigned from her post after being instructed to underreport the number of on-campus sexual assaults.

UNC’s official policy states “rape victims can choose whether to report the rape to police or take it to a student-run Honor Court” to present their case to the Student Attorneys General. Wait, so college students whose law degrees are still, like, 17 semesters and three years of law school away, get to play judge, jury and executioner with people they already know? What could possibly go wrong?  

This: UNC’s school's Honor Court decided that Gambill was emotionally unstable (she’d tried to kill herself during the course of the abusive relationship) and that she was lying about her ex-boyfriend. And they pressured her not to press charges with local authorities.   

Like the U.S. needs more pressure on women to stay silent about abuse. Already an estimated 54 percent of women don't report their sexual assaults, according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. And when they do come forward, the last thing victims of sexual abuse need is to be victimized again by the system. So Gambill, fellow UNC alumnae Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, former dean Manning and a few anonymous victims have filed a discrimination complaint with the Department of Education against UNC for doing just that. The women have also founded SAFER, Survivors and Allies for Empowerment and Reform, dedicated to raising awareness about gender-based violence and pushing for change at UNC-Chapel Hill. Because even if rape victims from UNC file a police report, the university still has jurisdiction. And that’s the icing on the WTF cake.

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