Education

Student criticizes UNC-CH for handling of rape allegation

Posted September 13, 2016 12:55 p.m. EDT
Updated September 14, 2016 10:35 a.m. EDT

— A student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill slammed the school Tuesday for how it has handled a rape allegation she made against a football player seven months ago.

Sophomore Delaney Robinson, 19, of Apex, said she was assaulted in an apartment at the Ram Village complex on the UNC campus on Valentine's Day, but the university has failed to take action against the player.

"I did not realize that, rather than receiving support and concern from the University, I would only be further victimized by the people who should be working to keep us safe," Robinson said at a news conference.

WRAL News usually doesn't identify the victims of sex assault, but Robinson decided to take a public stand on her case.

Although law enforcement hasn't charged Allen Artis in the case, Robinson swore out warrants Tuesday against the 21-year-old junior linebacker from Marietta, Ga., on charges of misdemeanor assault on a female and misdemeanor sexual battery.

Artis turned himself in on the sworn-in warrants at about 9 a.m. Wednesday and was released on a $5,000 unsecured bond.

"I did everything a rape victim is supposed to do. I reported it. I allowed the rape kit to be taken. I gave a statement. I cooperated with law enforcement and the Title IX office. But six months later, the university has done nothing," she said. "I’m taking this public stand not for me but for the other students on campus who are not protected, despite what the university tells us."

UNC officials cannot comment directly on the rape allegation because of federal privacy laws, Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs Joel Curran said in a statement.

"The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is deeply committed to the safety and well-being of our students and takes all allegations about sexual violence or sexual misconduct extremely seriously," Curran said. "These matters are complex and often involve multiple agencies, including law enforcement. While the University always tries to complete an investigation as quickly as possible, our priority is to ensure that the factual investigations are complete and conducted in a fair and thorough manner."

Team officials said Artis has been suspended indefinitely, which is standard procedure for an athlete facing a misdemeanor. Still, football coach Larry Fedora declined to comment on the allegation or the school's investigation of the case.

"We take these matters very seriously and are fully cooperating with the appropriate authorities," Fedora said in a statement.

"He is still important to the team. We have guys stepping up to fill his spot," said UNC football player Des Lawrence. "We haven't even focused on it."

Robinson's attorney, Denise Branch, criticized both the UNC Department of Public Safety and the school's Title IX office, which both investigated Robinson's case.

"This police force is not capable of properly investigating a sexual assault case to appropriate resolution," Branch said of DPS, noting that investigators interviewed Artis with a potential witness in the case in the room and later balked at sending a rape kit to the State Crime Lab for analysis.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said a crime lab director confirmed that the lab is in possession of the rape kit, which was submitted months ago and is being tested.

The Title IX office repeatedly violated its own rules, Branch said, by not rendering a decision within 90 days – the office still hasn't ruled in the case – by trying to obtain Robinson's blood-alcohol content and by reviewing her victim impact statement before a decision had been made.

"The university failed either by being uninformed or by completely disregarding the new Title IX guidelines that they so publicly pronounced being put in place," she said.

Woodall said the case remains "an open and active investigation" and that no decision has been made on whether to file charges against Artis.

"I think it’s a case where there’s some genuine hurdles to overcome," Woodall said. "You have to be very careful and deliberate. You never want someone accused unless there’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

Branch said the potential for criminal charges being filed in the case was news to her. She said she received an Aug. 2 email from Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman stating that authorities didn't plan to pursue charges, which is why Robinson went to a magistrate to swear out warrants on her own.

She said the District Attorney's Office also took the stance during the investigation that, because Robinson had been drinking the night of the alleged assault but wasn't unconscious at the time, authorities couldn't file a rape charge.

"Unconsciousness is rape. Black-out drunk is not rape," she said an investigator for the District Attorney's Office told her.

"I think this case at this point, the issue isn't whether physical contact took place...the issue in this case involves other circumstances surrounding the alleged assault," Woodall said.

UNC's policy on sex assault was revised two years ago to state that any sexual contact is considered an assault if there is no affirmative consent to it.

The policy was revised after five women filed a complaint with the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights over what they called an atmosphere of sexual violence at UNC. They accused the school of under-reporting sexual assault cases and alleged that administrators had created a hostile environment for students reporting sexual assault.

In addition to the policy overhaul, UNC mandated that all students take an online sexual violence and harassment course, and it changed its procedures for handling sex assault cases.

Robinson said she has no intentions of transferring from UNC, but seeing Artis on campus is difficult. She said she came forward in hopes of protecting other students.

"The biggest reason why I thought it was necessary to do this is because (if) the person before me – the student before me – had the capability to come forward, I might not be in the position I am today, and I can't continue on without doing this knowing that the student who does come after me will be put in this position," she said.

Other students say they don't worry about their own safety, but are more concerned about the way Robinson's case was handled.

"I feel like there is some concern about that. We have discussed it in my little social group. It is concerning," said UNC senior Stephanie Ryan. "I think people will still go along with their lives and go out and do the things they want to do."