A University of North Carolina student is being taken to the Honor Court for speaking out against her rapist. Landen Gambill, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina (UNC), is one of four women who, with the help of the former assistant dean of students at the University, filed a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The complaint alleges that “UNC violated the rights of sexual assault victims and facilitated a hostile environment for students reporting sexual assault.” Now Gambill, a victim of rape by her abusive ex-boyfriend, is being accused of “intimidating behavior,” despite the fact that she has not even publicly identified her rapist.
About 10 days after the complaint was filed, Gambill received an e-mail from the Graduate & Professional Schools Student Attorney General, Elizabeth Ireland, stating that Ireland had “received a report of a possible violation of the Honor Code on which you [Gambill] are listed as the reporting party.” Last Friday, Gambill received another e-mail from Ireland stating that she had sufficient evidence to submit the matter to the Honor Court. The e-mail goes on to say:
“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.”
Gambill believes the charge resulted from speaking about her rape to the press. She has talked about her horrible experience with the Honor Court after reporting the assault by her physically and verbally abusive ex-boyfriend, including when one of the women on the Honor Court during her hearing said, “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?” Gambill stated that when she made her report to the administration, they were “offensive,” “inappropriate,” and “victim-blaming.”
But the case gets more depraved. The complaint filed by Gambill and others, aided by the college’s former assistant dean of students, Melinda Manning, also alleges that University of North Carolina officials pressured Manning into underreporting sexual assault cases. Specifically, Manning says she was told by the University Counsel’s office that the number of sexual assault cases reported in 2010 was “too high.”
During her 11 years at UNC, Manning advocated for victims of sexual assault and attempted to change the University’s handling of sexual assault cases. In the complaint, she alleges that as a result of her efforts, she was met with hostility and retaliation from her direct supervisor and higher-ups, and that her work environment became so stressful it affected her health. She left her position in December, but said she joined in filing the complaint because she “wanted to do the right thing, even if it cost her personally.”
Alisha Mims is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.