Education

Federal complaint accuses UNC of 'indifference' toward sexual assault

Posted January 21, 2013

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— A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student, former administrator and two others have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights over the university's handling of sexual assault reports on campus.

The 34-page complaint alleges that university officials violated federal laws by dismissing the reports of sexual assault victims who came forward, failing to adequately train employees in offering support for those victims and downplaying rape statistics.

UNC junior Andrea Pino, one of the complainants, was sexually assaulted last March and now works as a peer educator for other sexual assault survivors on campus. She said she spoke with 76 people who claimed to have been sexually assaulted at UNC and noticed a disturbing trend.

"They weren't being believed. They were being told they were making up their mental illnesses. They were told their depression counted as consent," Pino said. "I was hearing stories almost every day, and I was the only one listening to them."

Of the 76, she said, only five reported the assaults to UNC. None, she said, have gotten justice.

"They go through this system in which they are not believed, made to relive their story over and over again, have it dissected and scrutinized and, in the end, have it fall behind an administration that doesn't believe any of it happened," Pino said. "It was literally something I could not understand, coming from a university I care so much about."

Andrea Pino Complaint: Sexual assault victims not supported at UNC

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp said in a statement Monday that the university has not received a copy of the federal complaint and cannot comment on it. He did say, however, that the university takes sexual assault very seriously.

"We are all working together to make sure that our process for handling these cases is fair, effective and supportive," Crisp said.

Pino, however, said the university treats sexual assault with "deliberate indifference" and that many victims don't even report it.

"Survivors don't feel like they can report. They don't feel empowered," she said. "There's a big silence around sexual violence."

In her case, Pino said, the trauma she endured in the assault made her story difficult to tell.

"I didn't report my assault because I received a concussion five minutes into my assault and there were no witnesses," she said. "I didn't feel like anyone would believe my story because I, myself, didn't have it all together."

Students have started an online petition, which has received more than 1,000 signatures, asking Chancellor Holden Thorp and the UNC Board of Trustees to take action against "hostility, victim blaming and lack of certain administrators' support when reporting sexual assault and harassment."

"It takes an entire community recognizing the problem – not just students, not just staff and faculty," Pino said. "Sexual violence needs to be addressed."

19 Comments

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  • JustOneGodLessThanUU Jan 23, 10:31 a.m.

    "As a UNC-W grad , I would take an education from a university like Campbell or NC State anyday over the chapel hill institution. jacamoe"

    According to the various rankings of national universities, UNC-W and Campbell aren't even listed. NC State is ranked as a second tier university. UNC Chapel Hill is clearly a first tier university. In addition to being ranked much higher academically, it's much harder to gain admission to Carolina than the other schools listed.

    Therefore, I can't think of a good reason for someone who was admitted to both Carolina and UNC-W to attend the latter.

    I know this is going to sound unbelievable, but my kid who graduated with honors from Carolina did so without cheating, raping or being raped.

  • jacamoe Jan 22, 12:39 p.m.

    What was ONCE a university we were all proud of, has too many straws in recent years on the camels back. UNC is a disgrace in more ways than one. As a UNC-W grad , I would take an education from a university like Campbell or NC State anyday over the chapel hill institution.

  • mernst Jan 22, 12:31 p.m.

    All UNC system schools down play and under report these type incidents! Its treated & seen by the admin as a "learning experience" for the assault victim which is the school's convenient way of keeping it off the records. They are also concerned with potential complaints againist student athletes and will go to any length to protect their athlete. So much for these esteemed places of higher learning and political correctness!

  • g3 Jan 22, 12:02 p.m.

    This story needs a little more context. The former assistant dean of students has alleged that the UNC Counsel's office pressured her to underreport sexual assault cases. So, she is alleging that she was pressured to reduce the number of reported assaults. It's interesting to me that Winston Crisp's name is popping up again. The university confirmed several months ago that Winston Crisp and Matt Kupec "worked together" to create a fundraising job, ultimately filled by Kupec's girlfriend, Tami Hansbrough. The job was funded by Kupec's office but structurally part of Crisp's office to get around nepotism rules. I think it's time that Crisp and his office get a little more scrutiny. I am embarrassed by my state's flagship university.
    http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2013/01/50f8ca9bc71da
    http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/09/12/2334880/uncs-kupec-worked-to-establish.html

  • immaannoid Jan 22, 11:24 a.m.

    "She said she spoke with 76 people who claimed to have been sexually assaulted at UNC and noticed a disturbing trend.

    "They weren't being believed. They were being told they were making up their mental illnesses. They were told their depression counted as consent," Pino said. "I was hearing stories almost every day, and I was the only one listening to them."

    Of the 76, she said, only five reported the assaults to UNC. None, she said, have gotten justice."

    Morrigan, you are right, this is a conflicting statement. The first one indicates that all 76 were "not believed", which should mean they reported.

  • Terkel Jan 22, 10:40 a.m.

    "She said she spoke with 76 people who claimed to have been sexually assaulted at UNC...Of the 76, she said, only five reported the assaults to UNC."

    YOU go back and read.

    carrboroyouth, save it for someone who'll be impressed favorably. I don't choose my words based on your social circle.

  • heat764 Jan 22, 10:31 a.m.

    More scandal at UNC, go ahead and drive a nail in that coffin.

  • early exit Roy Jan 22, 10:18 a.m.

    It appears to me if you reported it nothing was done. BTW, what does the honor court have to do with sexual assault cases? From what I have read it seems the honor court just humiliated them when questioned. That is the problem with universities, they don't want to report things because they will lose some dollars. Also at this university they have a tendacy to try and hide anything that goes on. It is all about perception at unc. I wonder if any athletes were involved?

  • kermit60 Jan 22, 10:12 a.m.

    Is she trying to blame the college for not doing something about assaults that were not reported? Exactly how are they supposed to do something about an assault that no one tells them about. I'm all for vigerously investigating each and every one reported. However, if it is show that the victim lied, gave false testimony, or flat out made the event up (as in the Duke case) they should face the same punnishment as the person accused.

  • didisaythat Jan 22, 10:01 a.m.

    Noid,

    Maybe you should read the story. It said of the 75 only 5 reported the incident. I am sure many more reported to police, but of those reporter to police,I wonder how many were actual rapes? I unfortunately have seen a large number of false reports..so I am skeptical on some reports and statistics.

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