By now, you might have heard about the UNC rape survivor who discussed her rape without identifying the rapist, but, nonetheless, has been charged by the university for violating the UNC Honor Code–yes, the anonymous rapist is somehow the victim*. According to one victim, here’s how things went down (boldface mine):
“It’s incredibly clear that those people had no idea what sexual assault is, what consent is,” said Landen Gambill, a sophomore whose assault case was processed by interim procedures.
“They were not only offensive and inappropriate, but they were so victim-blaming.
“They made it seem like my assault was completely my fault.”
As a freshman, Gambill was continually abused — sexually and verbally — by her long-term boyfriend.
When the relationship ended, she said she was met with months of stalking, threats and harassment.
Those actions lead her to press charges with the Honor Court. In her trial, Gambill said she was forced to answer irrelevant and inappropriate questions.
“The woman student said to me, ‘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?’” she said.
Gambill said the court used her history of clinical depression and her suicide attempt — which she said was a result of her abusive relationship — against her.
“They implied that I was emotionally unstable and couldn’t be telling the truth because I had attempted suicide,” she said.
Gambill said the court’s ignorance reflected a complete lack of training.
But Judicial Programs Officer Erik Hunter said the Honor Court members and the student attorney general’s staff received a full day of training after the interim procedures were implemented.
“We spent a lot of time trying to help them understand some of the things they were going to be seeing, in terms of the emotional toll these kinds of hearings would take on folks,” Hunter said.
But Assistant Dean of Students Melinda Manning said training was limited.
“The training the Honor Court received then was an hour at the most,” she said.
While being insensitive assholes is a problem, the much larger problem is that virtually everyone involved with the proceedings is very young. Let me put this this another way: thinking about what I was like at that age, there’s a good chance I would have said something as stupid as the Honor Court inquisitor. Why?
Because I was young and stupid and didn’t know a goddamn thing outside of my very limited experience.
Juries should have a mix of people, including people who have been around the block once or twice. There are few advantages of getting older, but one of them is experience. Some of this experience is hard earned, either by yourself or your friends. And maybe, just maybe, along the way you occasionally bothered to pay attention when it really mattered.
With experience, some learn that many rapists are predators who commit multiple rapes, not men who temporarily lose control.
With experience, some learn that abusers are very skilled at manipulating the emotions of their victims (e.g., gaslighting).
With experience, some learn that abusers are really skilled at isolating their victims, so their victims lose the ability to seek help until its too late.
With experience, some learn that some victims get so far under that they behave self-destructively even though that ‘makes no sense.’
And with experience, some learn that one can never be absolutely sure what one would do in a bad situation.
The answer isn’t training, it’s experience. For someone to say “I know that if that had happened to me, I would’ve broken up with him the first time it happened” and not have any doubts whether you actually would is the arrogance of youth (and I suspect she’ll look back at that and feel foolish).
A justice system completely populated by students, who are disproportionately privileged, will give very skewed results, just as any other skewed system would (such as one populated entirely by white men. For instance).
As long as that’s the case, campus justice, especially regarding sexual assault, will too often be an oxymoron.
*For the past twenty five years, I have witnessed the complete inability of universities to handle sexual assault crimes. The only thing that will fix this is a wave of massive law suits that target not only universities, but the individual bad actors. That, and realizing that felonies should be dealt with in criminal courts.