If you woke up this morning with a new, slightly disconcerting feeling that perhaps the world isn’t completely fucked, get ready to be set back on the path of despair and disenchantment. A sophomore at the University of North Carolina is currently on “trial” in the school’s Honor Court for “disruptive or intimidating behavior.” Her crime? Claiming she was raped. Talking about rape. Advocating for victim’s rights. If found guilty, she could face expulsion.
Last spring, UNC-Chapel Hill student Landen Gambill filed a charge against her ex-boyfriend via the school’s internal systems alleging that he raped her. After appearing before UNC’s “Honor Court” — which is a group of undergrad students who weigh judgment on disciplinary disputes — her ex was found not guilty. Let’s not even get into the whole “why the hell didn’t she file actual criminal charges against him?” conversation. I don’t get it either. Regardless, she went public about her assault and sought justice through the channels that govern her immediate world, her school.
What she got instead was an email from the school informing her that SHE would now be required to go before the “Honor Court” for her “disruptive or intimidating behavior” towards her ex-boyfriend. You know, the one who allegedly raped her. Evidently, saying someone raped you is “disruptive” to them. Gambill claims she has never mentioned his name publicly, focusing instead on bringing attention to the university’s mistreatment of victims.
The whole shit-uation surrounding this case serves as a completely superfluous reminder (like we could ever forget) of the pervasive culture of victim-blaming and rape approval in this country. This is a woman whose healthy sense of self-value and moral obligation to call out rapists bein’ rapey incited her to file charges in the first place. We should be applauding, hugging, and buying Forget-Me-Nows for this chick, as we should for anyone who is bravely forthcoming with their painful experiences for the sake of awareness and justice. This is also a woman who, upon experiencing inadequacies in her university’s treatment of sexual assault victims, deciding to take action towards rectifying those failings for the benefit of not just herself, but any student who finds themselves needing support.
As it happens, Gambill’s refusal to quietly accept what’s happened to her has made a lot of people pretty uncomfortable. While UNC officials claim they can’t comment on the specifics of student cases, including Gambill’s, the school implemented a new process for handling sexual assault cases. Starting last August, they are no longer handled by the
Kiddie Honor Court. They’ve also had a fancy lawyer hanging out on campus for the last few months to “guide an open and transparent conversation about how the issue of sexual assault affects the campus and culture that is focusing on education and engagement”, i.e., cover UNC’s collective asses.
Gambill’s focus has now shifted from seeking justice for her particular case to addressing what she and others feel is a systematic underserving of victims of sexual assault at UNC. Furthermore, UNC-Chapel Hill evidently has a long, inglorious history of not only failing to assist victims in post-assault recovery, but regularly violating their rights. To that end, Gambill, along with other students and a former UNC dean of students, filed a complaint last month with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.