Melissa Harris Perry
updated 3/27/2013 7:45:50 PM ET 2013-03-27T23:45:50

Yet another student filed a complaint against the University of North Carolina on Monday charging that she is being targeted unfairly for revealing her rape. See our "Melissa Harris-Perry" interview with two other young survivors alleging mistreatment by UNC.

Landen Gambill, who alleged publicly that she was raped on the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill campus, filed a complaint Monday and that the school has threatened her with expulsion for that declaration.

From the AP:

Attorney Clay Turner sent a letter Monday to UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp, advising the school of the complaint that his client, Landen Gambill, filed with the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education. The letter also asks Thorp to dismiss charges filed in the school’s honor-code court against Gambill…

“In speaking out for change at UNC, Ms. Gambill is not ‘harassing’ or ‘intimidating’ her abuser, whom she has never named,” Turner wrote. “Rather, the university’s decision to press charges against Ms. Gambill has tragically provided her abuser with the opportunity to harass and intimidate her” despite a no-contact order issued against him last May.

Gambill is the latest student to file suit against the school, UNC-Chapel Hill drew national attention in January when alumna Annie Clark said that a campus official used a football  metaphor to respond to her claim that she was raped in 2007.

“I asked an administrator what the process would look like,” Clark told university paper The Daily Tarheel in January. “Instead, that person told me, ‘Rape is like a football game, Annie. If you look back on the game, and you’re the quarterback and you’re in charge, is there anything that you would have done differently in that situation?’”

The cringe-worthy comment is part of the hostile campus culture that Clark, along with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, claims in a complaint filed against UNC-Chapel Hill. Three current UNC-Chapel Hill students and a former assistant dean of the school have joined Clark in the suit, alleging that campus authorities disregard the needs of sexual assault victims and re-traumatize survivors.

Prior to being profiled in the New York Times, Clark and her co-complainant Andrea Pino, discussed their goals on March 16′s Melissa Harris-Perry.

“We hope to hold certain administrators accountable at UNC and change policies, and make sure that we have implemented best practices,” said Clark. “But, since coming forward, this has become much bigger than about a singular issue campaign. We’ve started to connect universities and notice trends and patterns that have happened nationwide.”

While the complaint has shined a bright light on the issue of campus rape at one school, those trends and patterns have long been hiding in plain sight throughout America’s institutions of higher learning.

One in five college women will be the target of sexual assault, according to an estimate from the Department of Justice.

A 2010 investigative report from NPR and the Center for Public Integrity found that that statistic is indicative of a failure on the part of both academic and government institutions to take seriously their responsibility to the safety of students. Campus disciplinary processes bypass the criminal justice system (which has it’s own spotty record on violent assaults against women), offering few legal protections to those who come forward.

There is no due process, no subpoena power, no evidence. Decisions are often handed down by panels of students and administrators who are poorly trained in how to engage a survivor of sexual assault.

Pino reported her assault to UNC-Chapel Hill after it happened a year ago.

“I noticed that our policies weren’t very survivor friendly and they were not very clear for what the procedures were for really coming forward and finding support,” she said. “I was hearing dozens of stories a week and I realized that my story was only one of many. I was telling all these administrators my concerns and really wasn’t met with any sort of answers.”

Even when the accused are found guilty of rape, they are seldom expelled from the school. More often, it’s the survivor of sexual assault who ends up leaving the school to avoid running into their assailant. It’s an outcome that stigmatizes victims and discourages women from reporting rape.

“Oftentimes we’re being told that our story is one of a kind, it’s our fault, that we could have prevented it,” Pino said. “We hope that not only with our complaint but with coming forward and sharing our stories that we let other survivors know that they’re not alone, that it’s not their fault.”

There are already existing legal protections for sexual assault survivors at colleges and universities. Title IX and another law known as The Clery Act require schools to have clear and comprehensive policies in place to respond to sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and stalking. But many women are unaware of their rights, and schools have fallen short of that standard.

A new law to complement Title IX and update The Clery Act—named after 19-year-old Jeanne Ann Clery, who was raped and murdered in a university dorm in 1986—was a point of contention in the yearlong congressional tug of war over reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act—or SaVE Act—was included in the Senate version of VAWA to set new provisions for how colleges and universities handle sexual assaults. First introduced by Senator Bob Casey in 2010, the SaVe Act amends The Clery Act.

The new law, which was ultimately reauthorized, ensures that survivors of a sexual assault on campus be made aware of their right to notify local law enforcement and their options to be relocated away from their attacker. Institutions would also need to establish an equitable and clear process for disciplinary action. It also requires schools to be proactive about rape prevention with education and awareness programming for students and staff.

For more of the conversation from the March 16 Melissa Harris-Perry, see below.

Video: Are elite universities participating in rape coverup?

  1. Closed captioning of: Are elite universities participating in rape coverup?

    >>> sexual violence survivors are finding themselves victimized a second time when they report the assault to school administration. that's what happened at the university of north carolina chapel hill according three students, alumni and former dean who have filed a complaint with the office of civil rights on behalf of themselves and 64 other assault survivor. failure to adequately respond and investigate the claims and hearing committees poorly trained to handle the cases. joining us is andrea and annie , a former student at chapel hill . both are survivors of sexual assault and are two of the women bringing st complaint against the university. i really appreciate you guys going forward. a lot of women are coming forward and being a part of what they're doing. what do you hope to accomplish with your complaint?

    >> on a very basic level we hope to hold them accountable. but since coming forward, as you know, this is much bigger than a singular issue campaign. we start to notice trends and patterns that have happened, you know, nationwide. if you look at yale, you start to notice the same things. so it's not only procedural change and holding administrators accountable but having larger conversation about sexual assault . certainly how we treat each other in the country. and so it's a much larger issue. you want to chime in on that.

    >> i think it's also definitely creating a forum for survivors to come forward. so often times we're told that our story is one of a kind. it's our fault that we could have prevented it. we hope that not only with our complaint but by coming forward and sharing the stories that we let others know they're not alone. and it's tham tire to come forward as well.

    >> can you walk us through what the response was specifically from the university when you came forward with your complaint? when you officially came forward, how did they respond to you?

    >> i was sexually assaulted march of 2012 . it's been a year as of last week. right after my assault i had a difficult time adjusting academically and finding support. i used annie 's blind report system that allowed me to report it anonymously. i noticed that our policies were not very survivor friendly. they were also not very clear on what the procedures were for really coming forward and finding support. i was hearing dozens of stories a week. i realded that my story was one of many. so i was telling all the administrators my concerns and really wasn't being met with any sort of answers. it was we'll get to it. never we'll do something about it. annie is a good friend of mine and when she reported her assault, she dealt tw the same issues in 2007 . and we realize these many years later things were not really so we decided about it. and initially we were going to write an article. i was doing research online. i was writing an article with annie . when we found out we could file a complaint, talking to students at amherst and yale, we told the university we were going to do something about it. it was very much, well, you're not really going to do anything.

    >> they very much said, don't do it. we can handle it internally. are you sure you want to go public with this? and after years of fighting the same battle and seeing andrea go what i went through and some has changed and some has gotten better, but the main issues are still the same. we had to do something legally.

    >> the university issued a statement saying we will respond appropriately to the office of civil rights question question for information and cooperate fully with the investigation. a former dean of students is joining you in the complaint. what was her experience, and why did she join the complaint with you?

    >> i think she'll have to speak to that. i won't speak on her behalf. but she's been amazing, and one of the few people at the university of north carolina at chapel hill who has supported survivors and fought tirelessly for them. after i had a report in 2007 and now met with the infamous football quote, i went to her. i was like, this has got to change. she helped me rewrite and recreate our policy.

    >> i want to thank you. we have a lot more from the panel and i will let them get right to it after we come



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