Photo: Katie Sweeney / DTH
Landen Gambill, a sophomore, submitted a complaint with several others in January to the Office for Civil Rights about UNC’s treatment of sexual assault cases.
If you were verbally and emotionally abused, sexually assaulted, and ultimately raped by someone, what would you do? How would you react? Would you report the abuse to the authorities, or stay silent?
Women and girls face these questions every day. Although it's irrational (and they may know it), many women blame themselves and so keep quiet. Of those who do speak out, many of them face victim-blaming questions like "why were you alone?" or "why did you wear that outfit?" Women and girls who have already suffered trauma face more guilt and blame, whether they report the abuse or not.
Landen Gambill, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina, says she suffered verbal and sexual abuse from her long-term boyfriend, also a student at UNC. After they broke up, she says he continued to stalk and harass her. In the spring of 2012 she chose to report these actions to the university's Honor Court–which is made up of students–Gambill says she faced inappropriate questions about her mental health and past relationship.
"The woman student said to me, '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?'" she said.
Gambill said the court used her history of clinical depression and her suicide attempt–which she said was a result of her abusive relationship–against her.
"They implied that I was emotionally unstable and couldn't be telling the truth because I had attempted suicide," she said.
Ultimately, the Honor Court found Gambill's ex-boyfriend not guilty. Because she felt the case had been mishandled, she (along with others) filed a complaint with U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against UNC, stating that the University is negligent and insensitive in dealing with reports of sexual assault and violence. Shortly after going public with her case–in which she has never publicly named the person she's accusing–she was informed that she might be in violation of UNC's Honor Code. The charge is that Gambill has created a hostile environment for her ex-boyfriend by her accusation. Specifically she is accused of
I.C.1.c. - Disruptive or intimidating behavior that willfully abuses, disparages, or otherwise interferes with another (other than on the basis of protected classifications identified and addressed in the University's Policy on Prohibited Harassment and Discrimination) 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.
If Gambill is found guilty, she potentially faces expulsion. Other possible punishments include various types of suspension or probation, loss of privileges, community service, a written warning, grade penalties, or an educational assignment.
Meanwhile, her accused rapist has faced no penalties.
UNC removed sexual assault completely from its Honor Code in August 2012.
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