State News

UNC-CH officials deny under-reporting sex assaults

Posted January 24, 2013

— Officials at North Carolina's flagship public university dispute claims they under-reported sexual assaults in 2010 to avoid looking bad.

The top attorney at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told campus trustees Thursday that the allegations are false. General Counsel Leslie Strohm and Chancellor Holden Thorp said they had not seen a complaint filed earlier this month with the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights.

A copy of the report was obtained by the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. That newspaper reported last week that current and former students and former assistant dean of students Melinda Manning accuse the school of under-reporting sexual assaults in an annual report to the federal government on campus crime.

It could take federal officials at least a month to review the complaint, which is not public record.

Strohm said 23 sex assaults on and off campus were reported in 2010, which was more than the number Manning forwarded to UNC-Chapel Hill officials. The university was able to compile information on the other assaults through outreach to law enforcement agencies in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County, she said.

"The allegations of under-reporting sexual assaults is false, untrue and just plain wrong," she said. "Some false allegations are the result of misunderstanding. I fervently hope this is a result of a misunderstanding."

The 34-page complaint alleges that university 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.

The university takes "a balanced approach" to sex assault allegations, Thorp said.

Old Well at UNC-Chapel Hill UNC-CH trying to deal with allegation it ignores sex assault claims

"It is a daunting responsibility to get this right," he said. "It involves sensitive and difficult issues, and it involves trying to treat people fairly within that environment."

UNC-Chapel Hill has already consulted with and is considering hiring Gina Smith, a nationally recognized sexual misconduct expert who helps universities appropriately respond to sexual assault issues. Thorp said. He also has reached out to the president of Amherst College in Massachusetts, which has had similar issues.

"We want to make sure the policies and procedures and the climate we have is the best (they) can possibly be," he said.

One of the complainants declined to comment Thursday on the UNC-Chapel Hill officials' remarks.

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

Several students said Thursday that they were pleased with the university's response to the situation.

"I think that’s a sign the university is really working hard to provide support for students," Simone Reaves said.

"I have no doubt Carolina will take the steps are needed to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future," Kristina Redd said.

23 Comments

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  • isaacewallace Jan 25, 12:39 p.m.

    UNC always has and always will be operated by the - good old boys club.
    Secret meetings and closed doors.

  • Dan Cooper Jan 24, 7:33 p.m.

    UNC needs to stop worrying about the success of their football & basketball teams ($$$$$$$) and get back to educating, but when you allow liberals to take over this is what you get- liars, egos and repeated scandals.

  • common tater Jan 24, 6:54 p.m.

    UNC in trouble again? I can't decide if they are just under the spotlight, and getting called out for things most schools do, or if they really are just arrogant and thought they wouldn't get caught. But I find the "1 in 4" number hard to believe: I agree...few would send their daughter to college if that is true.

  • dirtydozen431 Jan 24, 6:23 p.m.

    I live in Chapel Hill. They are lying their, well you know what where.

  • Enough is Enough People Jan 24, 5:10 p.m.

    Boy the news coming out of UNC just gets better and better.

  • anneonymousone Jan 24, 4:13 p.m.

    When a rape survivor talks to an official who then completes a report calling the crime an assault, is that underreporting? I would say yes, but the climate is and has been such on campuses that they routinely play around with the numbers.

    We are going to have to educate people to understand that rape and similar crimes are underreported to law enforcement, and that higher report statistics makes it clear that the campus atmosphere is supportive of survivors, not that there are, necessarily, more rapes occuring.

    But because so few people read past the headline or hear past the soundbite, administrations will continue to lie in order to protect their institutions.

    People will get judgmental about a survivor's behavior or clothin. The facts will be ignored: some people (most of whom are men, but not all) rape people (most of whom are women and girls, but not all), because there is so much about the culture that tells them that they are allowed to.

  • superman Jan 24, 4:09 p.m.

    And Thorpe is the captain of this sinking ship.

  • matt_wood Jan 24, 3:40 p.m.

    "This is systematic. 1 in 4 college women will be a victim of attempted rape or rape. Either rapes are being grossly, grossly underreported or universities, through their title VIIII coordinators are trying to sweep sexual assaults on college campuses under the rug."

    Some statistics show that 95% of sexual assaults go unreported due to feelings of guilt, shame, fear, etc. So yeah, it's a major problem, but the university can only report those cases about which they have been made aware. All the more reason it is imperative our society stops demonizing victims and starts to hold the perpetrators truly accountable!

  • dishman Jan 24, 3:26 p.m.

    And here is a third possibility: Your stat of 1 in 4 college women being victimized is wrong. If this was true, would you or anyone else send your daughters off to college?

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again01 Jan 24, 3:24 p.m.

    Carolina sure has a mighty big rug. They have a pile roughly the size of Mount Everest that they have swept under it.

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