Education

Lawyer: UNC student making life difficult for accused attacker

Posted March 5, 2013 5:11 p.m. EST
Updated March 6, 2013 6:38 a.m. EST

— Repeated public comments by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student about an alleged rape are making campus life difficult for her former boyfriend, his attorney said Tuesday.

Sophomore Landen Gambill has spoken out since January about her case and was one of five women, including a former assistant dean, who have asked the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights to investigate what they call an atmosphere of sexual violence at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Gambill's case has gained increased notoriety since last week, when the student-run Honor Court accused her of violating the university's honor code by creating an intimidating environment for her accused attacker. If found guilty, she could be expelled.

Gambill has never publicly identified him, referring to him only as a long-time boyfriend. Charlotte attorney John Gresham said that and other information in her statements is enough for people on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus to know who he is.

"They had a significant number of mutual friends from time they were dating who knew his identity," Gresham said.

Gambill has said university leaders advised her to take the case to the Honor Court instead of to police. In a private proceeding, she says, the Honor Court found the man not guilty.

Gresham, pointing out that UNC-Chapel Hill removed sexual assault cases from the purview of the Honor Court in January 2012, said the case was heard by a University Hearings Board made up of two students, two faculty members and one administrator.

Regardless of the venue, Gresham and Gambill agree that his client was acquitted of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.

While the case was investigated and heard, the man was suspended from school, Gresham said. After he was readmitted to school in December, Gambill went public with her story as a sexual assault survivor, which he said made it impossible for his client to remain anonymous on campus.

"If she wanted to deal with the process, that's one thing," he said, "but after the University Hearing Board acquitted him unanimously, you can imagine what it must be like to be characterized as a rapist over and over again."

The student switched classes so he wouldn't be near Gambill, and he visits public places only when accompanied by a friend because he has been threatened with violence, the attorney said. He eventually felt he had to file the Honor Court complaint.

"He wants to be able to complete his education," Gresham said. "He doesn't see that, having been acquitted, he should not be afforded that opportunity fully."

Gambill, who couldn't be reached Tuesday for comment, has said the honor code violations are the university's way of retaliating against her for speaking out.

Students have rallied behind her in recent days, calling on UNC-Chapel Hill to adopt new policies for handling sex assault cases, expand resources for alleged victims and require more training of administrators.

She said she still might file criminal charges but has held off because she felt victimized by the campus process.