Sexual assault victims at UNC-Chapel Hill are upset with how the university handled their cases.
Three students are filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, saying UNC's sexual assault policy is “unjust.”
“It was a really hard semester. I didn't sleep, didn't eat, felt really anxious all the time,” said sophomore Landen Gambill, who was abused during her freshman year.
Sexual assault is recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice as the most underreported violent crime in America.
“Violence is happening at UNC. No one is talking about it, and because no one is talking about it students don't feel empowered to report it,” said junior Andrea Pino, an assault victim.
Gambill reported the problem to the university but says the university's procedure that followed was offensive and insensitive.
“It was traumatic. It was difficult — one of the hardest couple of days of my life,” Gambill said.
Gambill and Pino believe the university is more interested in quieting victims than seeking justice for them because schools are required to report the number of violent crimes, and the reports ultimately impact the school's reputation.
“I felt shamed, guilted, definitely not listened to,” Gambill said of the university's process.
Pino says UNC does not take an active and collective stand against sexual violence, nor does it educate victims about their rights and too often lets abusers and rapists off the hook.
Gambill's abuser withdrew from UNC but was never expelled or punished.
Both Pino and Gambill are filing the complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. They want the Department of Education to investigate what they call the school's “unjust” sexual assault policy.
“I want to see the university, university administrators and the student body as a whole take a collective and active stand against sexual violence. And I think in order to do that, that includes creating a sexual assault policy that does not protect rapists anymore,” Gambill said.
In August, the university updated its sexual assault policy following a federal mandate.
UNC declined NBC-17 requests for an interview. Late Wednesday, Jonathan Sauls, dean of students, issued the following statement saying, “Based on federal regulations and input from members of the campus community, the University has engaged in an extensive effort to assess and redevelop its policies and procedures for responding to complaints of harassment, discrimination and sexual violence.
“This effort culminated in the adoption of a new policy to address instances of sexual assault on Aug. 1, 2012. This policy complements the many other campus and community based resources and initiatives available to support survivors of sexual violence. The University is committed to providing accessible, responsive, and legally compliant policies and carefully considers the observations and experiences of every student who participates in the process.”