CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Sex assault victims and their supporters rallied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Wednesday, calling for the university to change how it deals with sexual assaults on campus.
"I demand that the administrators at the university stop protecting rapists," Landen Gambill, a sophomore and sex assault survivor said during the rally outside Chancellor Holden Thorp's office.
"There are rapists on this campus, and the university knows it," Gambill said. "The university knows who and what they are, but they’re still here as a direct result of specific administrators protecting them.”
Gambill is one of several current and former students who, along with former assistant dean of students Melinda Manning, recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, accusing the school of under-reporting sexual assaults in an annual report to the federal government on campus crime.
The 34-page complaint alleges that UNC-Chapel Hill officials also violated federal laws by dismissing the reports of sexual assault victims who came forward and failing to adequately train employees in offering support for those victims.
University officials have denied the allegations, but more than two dozen students said Wednesday that UNC-Chapel Hill has long ignored and intimidated sex assault victims, even blaming them for their assaults on occasion.
"I was promised I'd be treated fairly in my abuser's trial. Instead, I was blamed for everything he did to me," Gambill said, referring to the campus Honor Court's handling of her case.
Thorp said last week that the school is considering hiring Gina Smith, a nationally recognized sexual misconduct expert who helps universities appropriately respond to sexual assault issues.
Students said that doesn't go far enough, and they demanded a new university policy on handling sex assault cases, more training for faculty and staff and more resources for victims.
"We're not being taken into account. Our stories are not being addressed," said junior Andrea Pino, another sex assault survivor who filed the federal complaint. "This story is not about numbers. This story is about survivors who are being silenced."
Pino said she, Gambill and other sex assault survivors need to be able to provide input to any changes UNC-Chapel Hill is considering.
"I and other survivors should not have to walk around our campus each day with the fear of seeing the men who raped us," Gambill said. "It's time for this university to listen to women, to trust us and to believe us. We will not be silenced. We've endured injustice for far too long."