A Cycle of Victimization
Each and every August and September, students return to their respective colleges or universities for the next seven months. Unbeknownst to many of the young women entering college is that, “one in four women are raped during their time in college,” and a college with more than 6,000 students, “average one rape per day during the school year,” as reported by the Department of Defense. The way that campus rape is handled allows such staggering statistics to come about. Many rapists walk free among their victims; a lion surround by a herd of antelope. This is because of a flawed judicial system that is easily manipulated and unfair.
Under normal circumstances when a woman is raped, a call is made and the rape is reported to the police. Within a matter of minutes the police arrive along with an ambulance and the victim is escorted to the emergency room. Forensic tests are preformed to collect fluids, fibers, hair, and to preserve the evidence for further analysis. The police take a statement from the victim, and the victim is to decide if they want to pursue persecution of their rapist. If the case is too large for the members of the local police department, they will call in help from surrounding police departments. This is how authorities handle most cases of rape, but unluckily not how colleges deal with the crime.
On a large college or university the local police do not have jurisdiction over campus police, only in the case of death or murder to local police get involved. These campus police departments are made up of a few actual police officers, more than a hand-full of security guards, and student workers. The campus police departments are supposed to be able to investigate anything from a burglary of an iPhone to an incident of violent rape. More than once have these police departments failed to persecute and deal with crimes going on in the place they are sworn to protect.
Angie Epifano, a former member of Amherst College’s class of 2014 was a victim of acquaintance rape. Acquaintance rape is rape done by someone the victim knows, the crime can be violent but does not need to be. Epifano was raped by one of the boys who lived next door to her on May 25th. Unfortunately Epifano did not report the rape until February due to her emotional state and feeling as if nothing would be done. When she had to work with her rapist on a fundraising project and could not deal with his winks, smirks, and pats on the back Epifano knew she had to report the rape. When she went to report the crime they told her it would be impossible to change dormitories, that it would be useless to press charges because the rapist was about to graduate, and even questioned, “Are you SURE it was rape? It might have just been a bad hookup…you should just forgive and forget.” The campus police department would not investigate the rape. The counseling center told Epifano that she needed to forgive her rapist and that it is was crazy to be afraid on campus. No one did anything to help Epifano and she soon fell into a downward spiral and found herself in a psychiatric ward after she made suicidal comments. After resolving her problems Epifano returned to Amherst College and nothing had changed. Angie Epifano transferred to another school while her rapist graduated Amherst College with honors.
The story of Angie Epifano shows just exactly how colleges and universities are not equipped to handle cases of rape. The administration failed to even acknowledge the crime. The campus police department failed in their job of pursuing the crime. If the crime were reported to an actual police department outside of campus it would have been investigated. There would have been police reports, interviews, and maybe even a court case. But since the rape was committed on a college campus, the college has jurisdiction and nothing was done to protect Angie Epifano.
In 1972 Title IX came into play on college and university campuses nationwide. Title IX is a portion of the Educational Amendment that states, “No person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid.” This amendment from forty years ago is the reason why colleges and universities are handling cases of rape. According to Title IX, at a minimum, a school needs a sexual assault policy and process for judging cases or at least responding to sexual assault claims. Which in theory is great. Title IX is all about protecting the victims of sexual assault and rape and ensuring that they receive the same education as everyone else. If a rape was reported to a police department chances are, if everything works out, that it would end up in a court. In court the victim would be protected and if the evidence holds up, the rapist prosecuted. The victim’s Title IX rights would be protected and justice served.
College judicial systems are just as crooked and backwards as campus police procedures that handle campus rape. Each college violates its student rights in a different way. They most routinely violate the student’s sixth amendment right to a jury of their peers. As Kristen Lombardi an investigative reporter for the Center of Public Integrity reports that, “hearing panels will consist of students and faculty and staff members serving as a board.” A panel made up of the college’s own students, faculty, and staff members is a direct violation of the six amendment of the Constitution promising an impartial jury. An impartial jury is made up of a jury pool that is, “selected randomly from all potential jurors.” A panel of students, staff members, and faculty, who may or may not know the victim or rapist, is not an impartial jury. On top of the problem of not having an impartial jury is the fact that neither school administrators, staff, nor students have the legal experience to convict someone guilty or not guilty of such a hefty crime, only a judge and jury should be able to make such verdicts. Just because a forty-year-old amendment gives people power does not mean the power is being used in the right way.
The case of Landen Gambill, a student at North Caroline State University at Chapel Hill shows just how corrupt the judicial process at college campuses are. Landen Gambill is a sophomore at a university that is threatening her with possible expulsion for “intimidating” her rapist by speaking publicly about the assault and how the school handled it.
The back-story of this is just as awful as what they are threatening Gambill with. As a freshman, Landen Gambill was continually abused by her long-term boyfriend abused her both sexually and verbally. The abuse was all too much for Gambill and she broke it off with her abuser. After the breakup, Gambill says she was confronted with months of stalking, threats, and harassment. Gambill went to the Dean of Student Office to report the actions of her abusive ex-boyfriend for stalking and rape in March of 2012. She then had to file a report with the Honor Court. The Honor Court was made up of students, administration, and staff. However when the trial came in May, they did not focus on the crimes committed by her ex-boyfriend. The Honor Court said things like, “Landen, 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 focused on Gambill’s past history with depression.
The fact that the Honor Court succumbed to the level of trying to prove that Landen Gambill was emotionally and mentally unstable is proof enough that Honor Courts are not capable of proving if crimes have been committed or not. The fact that Gambill had a past history of depression should not be a deciding factor if someone has been raped or not. Personal anecdotes from board members on what they would have done in such an instance should not a factor if someone has been raped or not. These pieces of information are not proof. In a court of law, not one of these Honor Courts, these pieces of information would not hold up. Adam Goldstein, an attorney with the Student Press Law Center in response to how the Honor board treated Landen Gambill stated, “This is one of the reasons … law enforcement and the adjudication of rape cases in general does not lend itself to amateurs.” Which is exactly on point that these people should not be given the power to decide on such serious matters. It is unimaginable that this type of behavior would be tolerated in a place that is supposed to protect and help the victim, not degrade and doubt the victim.
After Landen Gambill’s Honor Court trial she joined a group of other rape victims that filed a complaint against the University of North Carolina to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The complaint explained how the university had regularly violated the right of sexual assault victims and failed to help them reach recovery after abuse. A week after the filing the complaint, the student attorney general sent a warning to Gambill that she violated the Honor Code for her “disruptive or intimidating behavior,” against her rapist, even though she never mentioned his name. If Gambill is proven guilty, she will face possible expulsion, suspension, or grade penalty.
The fact that the school is punishing Gambill instead of her rapist is mindboggling. Gambill did not rape some one. She did not stalk or harass anyone. She just spoke out about her experience and that is what warrants expulsion at North Carolina University. When a college or university targets a victim of a crime instead of the attacker, they send a message that the crime is acceptable. In the case of North Carolina University, they are telling the student body that it is acceptable to rape someone.
On an average sized college or university campus an average of one girl a day will be raped. That girl will go to campus police who will choose if they will report or investigate the crime. If investigated the rapist will be judged by a room of students from the campus, professors, and administrators. Depending on the ruling given by the board, the rapist will either walk free or suffer a consequence of the crime. Unfortunately the rapist tends to be the one that walks free and the victim is left to suffer. A cycle of victimization happens over and over leaving the girl to most likely drop out of college. The rapist graduates and the college or university perpetuates the idea that rape is allowed on their campus.
Epifano, Angie. “An Account of Sexual Assault at Amherst College.” The Amherst Student. The Amherst Student, 17 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. <http://amherststudent.amherst.edu/?q=article/2012/10/17/account-sexual-assault-amherst-college>.
Lombardi, Kristen, Rick Olshak, and Connie Kirkland. “How College Campuses Handle Sexual Assaulr.” NPR. NPR, 3 Dec. 2009. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121057891>.
McCabe, Caitilin. “UNC Sexual Assault Victims Speak up about Imperfect System.”The Daily Tar Heel. DTH Publishing Corp., 5 Dec. 2012. Web. 25 Apr. 2013. <http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2012/12/victims-speak-up-on-assault>.
RAINN. “Campus Safety.” RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. RAINN, 2009. Web. 25 Apr. 2013. <http://www.rainn.org/public-policy/campus-safety>.
University of Iowa. “About Title IX.” About Title IX. University of Iowa, n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <http://bailiwick.lib.uiowa.edu/ge/aboutRE.html>.