Justice

UNC Student Opens up About Campus Sexual Assault Allegations

Though the campus rape epidemic has become a fixture in discussions of criminal justice, gender inequality, and college culture in America, it's not clear the universities are stepping up to the plate when it comes to handling campus sexual assault allegations.

Sophomore Delaney Robinson, a 19-year-old student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, came out publicly and shared her story of alleged rape in a Tuesday press conference, The Cut reports.

"I did everything a rape victim is supposed to do," she said in a statement that has since been widely circulated on Twitter. "I reported it. I allowed the rape kit to be taken. I gave a statement. I cooperated with law enforcement and the Title IX office. But six months later, the university has done nothing. I’m taking this public stand not for me but for the other students on campus who are not protected, despite what the university tells us."

doctor-with-rape-kit

Robinson claims she was raped by a UNC football player in February of this year.

Robinson, who was 18 when the assault allegedly took place, said she reported the incident to campus police — whom she alleges aggressively interrogated and laughed at her — and was given a rape kit in a local hospital.

After waiting months for the university to act, she decided to open up to the media, Robinson explained at Tuesday press conference.

Robinson's attorney Denise Branch claims that the university violated the rules of its Title IX office, which requires it to reach a decision on sexual assault allegations within 90 days.

"The university failed either by being uninformed or by completely disregarding the new Title IX guidelines that they so publicly pronounced being put in place," Branch said.

Oddly enough, in 2014, the university revised its sexual assault policy to require affirmative consent — demanding students pledge to only have sex when both parties “affirmatively agree” to do so, the News & Observer reported.

The revision also states that “a student who is incapacitated by alcohol or drugs is considered unable to give consent,” the report adds. “Incapacitation is defined as a state beyond intoxication, impaired judgment or drunkenness.”

(The school's policy on “Prohibited discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct Including Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment, Sexual Violence, Interpersonal Violence and Stalking” is quite comprehensive, and it can be read in full online (PDF).)

From the policy page:

“Consent is the communication of an affirmative, conscious and freely made decision by each participant to engage in agreed upon forms of Sexual Contact. Consent requires an outward demonstration, through understandable words or actions, that conveys a clear willingness to engage in Sexual Contact.

"Consent is not to be inferred from silence, passivity, or a lack of resistance, and relying on non-verbal communication alone may result in a violation of this Policy. For example, a person who does not physically resist or verbally refuse Sexual Contact may not necessarily be giving Consent. There is no requirement that an individual verbally or physically resist unwelcome Sexual Contact for there to be a violation of this Policy.”

However, the 2014 policy shift was received somewhat skeptically among several students who spoke to the News & Observer at the time it was introduced.

“I don’t think the policy will be as effective until decisions are made in our [judicial] court to say they are serious,” Leslie Finch, then a senior UNC-CH student, told the publication, also calling the policy “just words on paper.”

UNC officials told local NBC affiliate WRAL they could not comment directly on the case due to federal privacy law, but provided a statement from Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs Joel Curran and one from a UNC football coach.

From WRAL:

"'The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is deeply committed to the safety and well-being of our students and takes all allegations about sexual violence or sexual misconduct extremely seriously,' Curran said. 'These matters are complex and often involve multiple agencies, including law enforcement. While the University always tries to complete an investigation as quickly as possible, our priority is to ensure that the factual investigations are complete and conducted in a fair and thorough manner.'

"Team officials said [the football player] has been suspended indefinitely, which is standard procedure for an athlete facing a misdemeanor. Still, football coach Larry Fedora declined to comment on the allegation or the school's investigation of the case.

"'We take these matters very seriously and are fully cooperating with the appropriate authorities,' Fedora said in a statement.'"

ATTN: reached out to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for comment via email and will update accordingly.

“My life has changed forever,” Robinson said on Tuesday. “While the person who assaulted me continues as a student and a football player on this campus.”

She described being interviewed by investigators from Department of Public Safety, run by the campus.

“After I was raped, I went to the hospital and gave an account of what I could remember to the sexual assault nurse. Then I was again quizzed by the DPS investigators, who consistently asked humiliating and accusatory questions. What was I wearing? What was I drinking? How much did I eat that day? Did I lead him on? Have I hooked up with him before? Do I often have one night stands? Did I even say no? What is my sexual history? How many men have a I slept with? I was treated like a suspect.”

“Yes, I was drinking that night on Valentine’s Day," Robinson said on Tuesday. "I’m underage, and I take responsibility for that. But that doesn’t give anyone the right to violate me. I did not deserve to be raped.”

Her description of how she was reportedly questioned seems to stand at odds with how her alleged rapist was questioned by DPS:

“My humiliation turned to anger when I listened to the recorded interviews of my rapist by DPS," Robinson explained. "Rather than accusing him of anything, the investigators spoke to him with a tone of camaraderie. They provided reassurances to him when he became upset. They even laughed with him when he told them how many girls’ phone numbers he had managed to get on the same night he raped me. They told him, ‘don’t sweat it, just keep on living your life and playing football.’"

Branch criticized how the both Orange County, North Carolina district attorney's office and the school handled the case.

Branch said that a Orange County, North Carolina assistant district attorney told Robinson “unconsciousness is rape, blackout drunk is not rape," according to the Daily Beast.

Branch also alleged that the physical exam found “vaginal injuries consistent with blunt-force trauma and bruising consistent with a physical assault," and she was critical of how the evidence was handled by law enforcement.

From WRAL:

"'This police force is not capable of properly investigating a sexual assault case to appropriate resolution,' Branch said of DPS, noting that investigators interviewed [the football player] with a potential witness in the case in the room and later balked at sending a rape kit to the State Crime Lab for analysis.

"Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said an SBI lab director confirmed that they are in possession of the rape kit, which was submitted months ago and is being tested."

Branch and North Carolina district attorneys have also offered contradictory accounts of the handling of the allegations.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall, for his part, told WRAL that the case remains "an open and active investigation."

"I think it’s a case where there’s some genuine hurdles to overcome," Woodall said. "You have to be very careful and deliberate. You never want someone accused unless there’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

Yet Branch claims she received an email from Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman stating that the authorities were not planning to pursue charges. So it remains unclear if the District Attorney's office has already decided not to press charges or is still reviewing Robinson's allegations.

ATTN: also reached out to the Orange County, North Carolina District Attorney's office and was unable to reach a spokesperson at time of publication. We will update as needed.

Robinson has issued a self-sworn warrant for her alleged rapist, as North Carolina law law allows citizens to request warrants from judges if they provide sufficient information – "probable cause" — to believe a crime has been committed. It remains unclear if he is in custody.

[h/t the Cut]