How to Not Be a Jerk to Alleged Sexual Assault Victims

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Say you are a college girl dating a college guy. This guy, though you may love him, is a jerk. More than a jerk. This guy sexually assaults you, verbally and physically abuses you. You break up with him, but he still stalks and harrasses you. Oh, and he lives across the street from you.

Not sure where to turn, you report his behavior to your college. Because student judicial boards are totally expert fact-finding bodies capable of dealing with sexual assault claims with professionalism and discretion, your college turns the judicial process over to the Honor Court, a board of your peers. Your college-aged, not professionally trained peers.

Instead of trying to find the truth of whether you were raped or not, your fellow 18-22 year olds are asking you questions such as: “…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?” and bringing your personal history of depression as evidence of your untrustworthiness.

Regardless, you press your case. Not optimistic about the direction of the Honor Court, you begin raising awareness about the issue of sexual assault and abuse in your community. You talk to the media about your story and stories like yours, without ever revealing the name of your ex-boyfriend.

Now, after everything, after the assault, the victim-blaming and the failure of the Honor Court to do anything about your ex-boyfriend’s proximity to you, the university charges you with a violation of the Honor Code. This violation could lead to serious ramifications for your academic career, including expulsion.

Why? Because you dared to complain about the university screwing you over.

Sound like a nightmare? Well, it’s happening right now to Landen Gambill at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Landen is currently being charged under a Honor Code statute prohibiting

“Disruptive or intimidating behavior that willfully abuses, disparages, or otherwise interferes with another… 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.”

With that in mind, I have a few questions for UNC Chapel Hill:

In what world is a body of college students adequate to deal with allegations of sexual assault?

How is it okay to punish someone for raising awareness to the fact that 25% of women are subjected to either rape or attempted rape during college?

What do you hope to accomplish by punishing Landen Gambill when approximately 95% of attempted or completed rapes aren’t reported to the police?

While I wait for my answers, I’ll take a stab at the issue myself.

UNC was trying to silence a student who was openly criticizing its policies and bringing bad press to the school. And whether she’s right or wrong in any of her allegations, Gambill’s speech is all protected under the First Amendment—you know, of the United States Constitution (which, by the way, UNC is bound to uphold).

UNC, if you were trying to protect your name, you failed hard. However, if you’re still looking to make a good spin off of this, allow me to make a suggestion.

Step off the woman who had the guts to say something and start taking responsibility for the hostile environment you’ve perpetuated by caring more about your good name than seeing justice served.