UNC student who says she was raped facing honor code violation
Posted February 25, 2013
Updated February 26, 2013
Chapel Hill, N.C. — A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sophomore says she feels like she is being targeted by the university after she spoke out on campus about how she was treated when she reported last year that she had been raped.
Landen Gambill says she is facing possible suspension or expulsion after an ex-boyfriend, who she says attacked her, filed a complaint with the student-run Honor Court that she created an "intimidating environment" for him when she recently spoke on campus.
Gambill says she never publicly identified the man, but the Honor Court has charged her with "disruptive or intimidating behavior."
"I was really, and still am, really upset, not just because it is obviously unfair to me," she said Monday. "It's just part of a larger pattern of the way this university handles these cases and treats survivors."
Gambill is one of four students who filed a federal complaint last month with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, alleging that the university violated federal laws by dismissing reports of sexual assault, failing to adequately train employees in offering support for victims and downplaying rape statistics.
The Education Department is still reviewing the complaint.
Gambill says that when she reported the assault to the university last spring, she was told to go through the Honor Court.
"The whole time in the Honor Court, they were asking me victim-blaming questions, like why I hadn't left him earlier or why was I ever alone with him, instead of asking him, 'Why did you do what you did?'"
The student was found not guilty, and Gambill says she feels like the new charge is in retaliation by the university for speaking out.
Karen Moon, a UNC spokeswoman, however, said in an email that the claim is unfounded.
"Given that these charging decisions are made by student attorney generals and not by campus administrators, a claim of retaliation by the university would be without merit," Moon said.
But Gambill says an assistant dean helped her ex-boyfriend file the complaint.
"It's an issue of the way this university sees sexual assault survivors as threats and as people to be silenced," she said. "Not as people who deserve respect and to be treated well and treated fairly."
Citing federal privacy laws, Moon could not speak specifically about Gambill's case but said the university "is committed to providing policies and procedures that are fair for everyone, especially about an issue that is as difficult and often involves strong opinions on both sides like sexual assault."
As of Aug. 1, she said, sexual assault cases are no longer addressed through the Honor Court system.
The university has also retained a former prosecutor and nationally recognized consultant on sexual misconduct issues to guide the campus on issues related to their handling of sexual assault complaints.
On Tuesday, Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a statement that students' well-being is a pressing issue at UNC.
"The Carolina community cares deeply about all of our students, including both students in this specific matter. If we are to achieve the ultimate goal of eliminating sexual assault and violence from this campus, we must all work together," he said.