“Oh my goodness!” I choked on my coffee and exclaimed in disgust. Thirty or more freshmen college kids—all decked out in our college colors—glanced my way. It was the first week of my freshman year and I didn’t want to look stupid, so I picked up my dropped jaw and pretended I already knew the shocking statistic scrawled on the classroom whiteboard: 1 in 4 college women will experience rape or attempted rape.
I felt betrayed. I had studied my butt off and took on thousands of dollars of debt to get into this school — only to find out now that I had a better chance of getting sexually harassed than of getting into this college in the first place. The peppy young social worker at the front of the room went on to say that harassment prevents 20 percent of college women from focusing on schoolwork and 23 percent from attending class or social events altogether. Some students raised their hands to ask questions about how we can prevent sexual assault, and what to do if a friend gets hurt on our campus.
UNC-Chapel Hill currently faces three investigations by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for allegedly creating a hostile environment for sexual assault survivors, failing to properly adjudicate rape, and for underreporting cases of sexual misconduct on campus.
If you’re like me, you’re wondering what that all means. Here’s a heartbreaking example: Andrea Pino, a student at UNC-CH, suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after getting raped at a party. When Pino went to temporarily withdraw from her classes, the Academic Advising Office accused her of “being lazy.” Meanwhile, a school counselor blamed her for getting raped, saying, “Rape is like football, and you’re the quarterback; when you look back on a game, how would you have done things differently?” Pino and 66 other sexual assault survivors filed the formal federal complaint against UNC-Chapel Hill. Making noise about an environment hostile to victims is one way to fight the problem.
There are also resources available to survivors. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, call 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 77054 for the National Dating Abuse Hotline.