Retaliation Complaint By UNC Sexual Assault Survivor Sparks Federal Investigation

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is currently facing three investigations by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights over the school’s handling of sexual assault reports.

The issues at UNC first became apparent when rape victim Landen Gambill (pictured here) was found in violation of the school’s honor code and faced the threat of expulsion. (Charges have since been dismissed.) After reporting UNC to the federal government for mishandling sexual assault cases, Gambill was accused of an honor court violation for exhibiting “disruptive or intimidating behavior” towards her alleged rapist, even though she never released his name. UNC eventually dropped the charges, but only after the case received national attention. The school is now under investigation for retaliating against a sexual assault whistleblower, underreporting sexual assault cases, and failing to adjudicate rape at the school. 

Landen Gambill is also not the first survivor to meet hostility after reporting sexual assault. Too many colleges have a bad track record for reporting sexual assaults, usually because they would rather keep rapists on campus than draw negative press to their school . Yale was fined $165K for unreported sex crimes, while a UK college suspended a survivor for engaging in sexual behavior that was “embarrassing” to the school after she reported an alleged rape. Amherst College “strongly encouraged” a rape survivor to leave the school instead of properly reporting the crime.  

It is common for whistleblowers to be blamed or seen as “stirring up trouble.” To try and fight this precedent at colleges, the U.S. Department of Education released a “Dear Colleague” letter to warn schools that it is a civil rights violation to retaliate against anyone who makes allegations against the school.  Although Landen Gambill and survivors like her have been mistreated, hopefully this investigation will be a reminder to other colleges to treat sexual assault victims with the respect they deserve.

[Huffington Post]
[University Herald]
[Huffington Post]
[Huffington Post]

[Photo: Landen Gambill via Huffington Post]