"She told me rape is like football, and if you look back on the game what would you have done differently in that situation," one of the women who filed a federal complaint with the Department of Education against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told ... wait — what?
Sorry, we're just making sure we hadn't slipped off into some horrendous nightmare. That's a quote from Annie Clark, a 2011 UNC alum, who reported a sexual assault to university officials in 2007. Clark, according to CNN, hadn't filed a report with police because she says the attack happened off-campus and she didn't know her attacker. But Clark she says she did go to university officials for help and didn't receive the best care. And that opinion was echoed by current UNC junior Andrea Pino, who says officials called her "lazy" when she told them of her experience with sexual assault near the campus:
Pino and Clark — along with two other students — filed a 34-page federal civil-rights complaint in January against UNC, claiming the school mishandled a sexual assault case and dropped the ball when it came to sexual assault and harassment complaints, and it's prompted a federal investigation into the university that began earlier this month. (A spokesperson for the chancellor's office at UNC told The Atlantic Wire that it did not have immediate comment regarding the university's response, but that they would provide information soon. Update: See the university response below.)
After the case in Steubenville, Ohio, and the ongoing situation in Torrington, Connecticut, where high-school students can't stop blaming the 13-year-old alleged victims, Clark and Pino's stories at UNC bring to light a potentially very troubling rape culture that isn't just popping up in small football towns across America — it's raising questions at one of the most prestigious public universities in the country, with more than 18,000 undergraduates.
Pino and Clark and the new federal investigation don't represent the first controversial rape case at UNC. You might remember Landen Gambill, a UNC student who could be facing expulsion for violating the school's honor code for intimidating her alleged rapist, an ex-boyfriend. Gambill never named him, but after her case was dismissed by the school's honor court —sexual assault was removed from its jurisdiction in 2012 — she went public. The Daily Tarheel has Gambill's account of her interaction with officials, which once again starts to sound more like victim-blaming from within the administration, and less like sympathy:
"The woman student said to me, 'Landen, as a woman, I know that if that had happened to me, I would’ve broken up with him the first time it happened. Will you explain to me why you didn’t?'" she said.
Gambill said the court used her history of clinical depression and her suicide attempt—which she said was a result of her abusive relationship—against her.
"They implied that I was emotionally unstable and couldn’t be telling the truth because I had attempted suicide," she said.
Gambill filed her own lawsuit on Monday. In the wake of these complaints, UNC has responded and denied that they underreported these sexual assaults. "The university provided DOE last week with a spreadsheet detailing all student complaints of sexual harassment or assault through this month and what was done in each case," reports USA Today, which adds that the school has hired two new employees to investigate sexual assault. We'll update when we hear more back from university officials.
Update 2:06 p.m. Eastern: UNC has announced that they've asked the honor court to suspend a case involving "a student who has spoken out about sexual assault issues on campus." Gambill is not named, as per university policy. The school's chancellor, Holden Thorp, said:
Recognizing the potential conflicts that may exist by allowing both processes to continue, we have asked the Student Attorney General to suspend the Honor Court proceeding pending an external review of these allegations of retaliation. The University takes all allegations of retaliation seriously, whether against an individual or an institution, and this allegation is no exception.