University officials are alleging that Landen Gambill is being “disruptive” or “intimidating” her rapist by going public with her story of sexual assault, despite the fact that Gambill has not even publicly identified her rapist.
Most likely, UNC’s action against the student is revenge. Gambill’s story first came to light as part of a case against the school in which a former assistant dean accused UNC of intentionally under-reporting cases of sexual assault. Gambill was one of three students providing evidence to prove the dean’s case. After it went public, Gambill publicly addressed the failings of UNC’s system, reporting that they “were not only offensive and inappropriate, but they were so victim-blaming… They made it seem like my assault was completely my fault.” The school even tried to leverage her suicide attempt, which happened after her sexual abuse, against her.
Calling her into the Honor Court can be seen as the latest attempt to silence the young girl. Jezebel reports that Gambill received her first threat from a school attorney about one month ago, on January 29th. On February 22nd, Gambill received a formal accusation calling her in to the court:
Accordingly, you are being charged with the following Honor Code violation(s):
II.C.1.c. – Disruptive or intimidating behavior that willfully abuses, disparages, or otherwise interferes with another (other than on the basis of protected classifications identified and addressed in the University’s Policy on Prohibited Harassment and Discrimination) so as to adversely affect their academic pursuits, opportunities for University employment, participation in University-sponsored extracurricular activities, or opportunities to benefit from other aspects of University Life.
This decision was reached because the evidence provides a reasonable basis to believe that a violation of the Honor Code may have occurred. Please note that being charged with a violation does not imply guilt. It simply means that sufficient evidence of a possible violation exists to warrant a hearing before the Undergraduate Honor Court.
The Honor Code may also specify that rape falls under “the University’s Policy on Prohibited Harassment,” but Gambill’s rapist remains on campus. In fact, Gambill lives across the street from her assailant.
But while UNC’s administration’s reaction couldn’t be worse, Gambill’s peers are trying to bring attention to the issue. Students have organized protests at the school, and have vocally defended Gambill in college papers. Their power might not stand up against institutionalized biases, but they spark a much-needed conversation. After all, UNC is not alone in its mishandling of rape culture and its ineffective sexual assault policies; colleges across the country are failing on these same fronts.