Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Landen Gambill's crusade sets back the cause for rape victims

In the spring of 2012, Landen Gambill filed a report of sexual assault with the University of North Carolina against her ex-boyfriend. Gambill chose not to file criminal charges. Now we learn that the school skewed the process and erected inexplicable, and unjust, roadblocks to keep the ex-boyfriend out of school. See here.  Despite this, the case was adjudicated in a 20-hour hearing by a five-member University Hearings Board consisting of three women and two men, and the board found Gambill’s ex-boyfriend not guilty of sexual misconduct in a unanimous 5-0 decision. Gambill elected not to appeal it.

Instead, Gambill has taken her case to a higher court: she has allied herself with what can aptly be called the sexual grievance industry. She has been afforded an international platform to continue to declare that her ex-boyfriend is a rapist. (If the ex-boyfriend had been found guilty, it is almost certain that no forum would have aired his claims that his accuser lied and that the system was unjust to him, even if he were correct.  Even this blog likely would not have given him a voice under those circumstances.)

Gambill wouldn't stop, and Gambill's ex-boyfriend decided enough was enough. He filed a complaint against Gambill with the UNC Honor Court for publicly soiling his character and for continuing to make accusations that had been fully heard and adjudicated last spring. His lawyer correctly explained: “She may not have used his name, but the identifying characteristics she’s given about him make him easily identifiable.”  Since the people who matter to the ex-boyfriend surely know that Gambill's accusations are about him, he's been identified by inference.

Gambill received notice from the Honor Court charging her with an Honor Code violation for "disruptive or intimidating behavior" toward the ex-boyfriend. A guilty verdict in UNC Honor Court could lead to anything from a grade penalty to expulsion.

And now, despite the adjudication of the Board, a chorus of women's rights activists are treating Gambill as the wronged party, and too often, the rhetoric has turned vicious in its assumption that the ex-boyfriend is guilty by virtue of the accusation, due process be damned. One blogger wrote that Gambill's school is "tell[ing] a victim of sexual assault to stop talking about it because it makes dormlife uncomfortable for her rapist . . . ." See here. Even Salon refers to the ex-boyfriend as "her rapist." If Salon had treated Gambill as a promiscuous slut who lied about rape, everyone -- including this blog -- would be outraged, but somehow it is justified in assuming the ex-boyfriend is a rapist. We might expect such shoddiness from amateur publications, but this is Salon, and it's written by an assistant editor. The hanging trees of the Old South were witness to similar assumptions of guilt.

In fact, the one and only adjudication of the ex-boyfriend's alleged sexual misconduct unanimously found him not guilty. Gambill did not appeal. No criminal charges were filed. Under the circumstances, it is grossly unjust to assume he's guilty just because Landen Gambill keeps saying it.

“Waking up every day in fear of going to class is no way to live at all,” the ex-boyfriend said. “Waking up and seeing comments from people who want to hurt me is no way to live at all.” He has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the ordeal the university subjected him to, and Gambill's repeated beating of the "rapist" tom-tom insures his nightmare won't end.

Gambill's conduct raises serious questions under the law that should not be trivialized in the interest of supporting a purported rape survivor. Title IX ordains that students have the right to pursue their education free of gender-based intimidation and hostility. This must mean not only that women should not be sexually harassed but that men should not be subjected to repeated rape accusations (and the public scorn that accompanies them) after they have been adjudicated not guilty of those charges in a duly authorized university proceeding and the accuser has decided not to appeal.

Landen Gambill is setting back the cause of rape victims by her woefully misguided tactics. She says she is worried that the charge against her will discourage victims of sexual assault from reporting cases to the university. Gambill should know that this is a most dishonest kind of advocacy. A good faith report of sexual assault is not subject to charges at UNC or anywhere else. Suggesting that women will be punished for reporting that they've been raped is a grotesque distortion that improperly puts off victims from reporting.

Moreover, when a man has been adjudicated not guilty of sexual misconduct charges in a duly authorized hearing where the charges were fully aired, it undermines public confidence in the way rape is handled when bloggers and activists insist that the accuser was raped. While the public insists on harsh punishment for rapists, it does not tolerate maligning the innocent. There comes a time when every claim must be put to rest, and that time has long passed for Landen Gambill's claim.

This blog defends women who are falsely accused of heinous crimes with the same zeal it defends men. We recently spoke out in defense of Sara Reedy, the woman who was falsely accused of making a false rape claim. We do not take sides based on gender, and we are appalled at the national witch hunt that Gambill and her devotees are fomenting against the ex-boyfriend. A young man was subjected to a marathon hearing on his alleged sexual misconduct, and the adjudicatory panel -- consisting mostly of women, by the way -- unanimously found him not guilty. What more can this young man do to clear his reputation? Must he be forced to finish out his scholastic career with the distraction of whispers and taunts because he purportedly raped Landen Gambill? The efforts to convict him in the court of public opinion, even if by inference, are manifestly unjust. That is grossly unfair to him, and a setback for the cause of rape victims.