UNC student group demands better polices for sexual assault victims

Jan. 30, 2013 @ 05:29 PM

A group of students Wednesday called on UNC administrators to change inadequate policies and procedures governing sexual assaults on campus.

The SAFER Carolina Campaign, Survivors and Allies for Empowerment and Reform held a rally in front of the university’s South Building where several students shared stories of sexual assault and claimed responses from UNC administrators were poor when they reported the attacks.

In addition, the victims contend administrators made them feel as though they were to blame for their sexual assaults while alleged rapist received a pass.

“I demand that the administration of this campus stop protecting rapists,” said Landen Gambill, a sophomore from Mooresville who said she was abused by a long-term boyfriend.

Gambill is one of three students and one former student who joined former assistant dean of students Melinda Manning in filing a complaint against the university with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

The complainants allege the university violated the rights of sexual assault victims and created a hostile environment for students reporting sexual assault.

Manning also charged university officials tried to pressure her into lowering the number of reported offenses and claims there were three fewer cases reported in the Annual Campus Security Report than she originally submitted.

UNC officials vigorously denied the charge during a Board of Trustees meeting last week. Officials contend the report, in fact, contained more incidents of sexual violence than Manning submitted for the report.

Also, UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp announced last week that the university will hire Gina Smith, a nationally known consultant and expert on sexual assault, to review UNC’s reporting policy to make sure the university is using best policies and procedures.

Andrea Pino, a junior from Miami and also one of the students who filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, said many sexual assault survivors were told by the administration they were making their stories up.

Although survivors have started to come forward, Pino said she chose not tell her story to UNC officials because she did not know who her rapist is.

 “My story was not one of them because I knew that if I were to come forward, I would not be believed,” Pino said.

The student group also called on the university to provide more resources and support to students survivors of sexual assault.

And Tim Longest, an organizer for the SAFER campaign, called on men at UNC to join the fight against sexism and sexual assault.

“All sexist men ask from others is to do nothing,” Longest said. “It’s time for all men at UNC and all at UNC and the university community … to recognize the privilege of neutrality and the obligation we have to our brothers and sisters who are survivors of sexual violence and who have been re-traumatized by the same university that was supposed to protect and support them.”

The SAFER Campaign has made these four demands:

 -- Provide Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Training and Education (SARVTAE) to a selected committee of trained, faculty and students to write student specific sexual assault policy, subject to public record and scrutiny. 
 -- Strongly encourage all administrators be SafeZone and HAVEN Trained 
 -- Create more accessible and centralized resources for survivors. 
 -- Create separate Title IX Department to handle gender-based violence response and prevention.