As a parent, I am furious and sickened by what I heard in last week’s news conference of Delaney Robinson, the young woman at UNC-Chapel Hill who alleges sexual battery and assault by UNC football player Allen Artis.
Chancellor Carol Folt and her administration have made addressing sexual assault and misconduct issues a high priority at UNC-CH. In fact, UNC adopted a policy two years ago on discrimination, sexual assault and harassment, and the university now has numerous full-time Title IX officers and proposes to investigate cases quickly and fairly.
But it has been more than six months since Delaney Robinson did all the “right things,”’ including having a rape kit gathered and filing a report with the UNC Department of Public Safety and the Title IX office. A new academic year has started. It is only through the courage of this young woman coming forward and filing charges that this shameful situation has been brought into the public eye.
By this young woman feeling compelled to take her story to the media, it seems reasonable to assume that there has been some measure of systemic failure at UNC concerning her sexual assault case and that UNC’s newly established sexual assault procedures and protocols were not followed as intended.
But where do we – as a society, parents, a community – go from here? We may not have all the facts, but we know enough to recognize that this is an important teachable moment to move the public dialogue forward on sexual assault and gender-based violence and to take actionable steps to address this persistent and widespread social and public health problem.
Having been the parent of a UNC female student and as a social scientist focused on gender-based research, interventions and programs, I see this unfortunate incident as an opportunity for immediate action at multiple levels. For example, school administrators, residence assistants and campus police need more and better gender-sensitivity training. Campus police also need better training to avoid questioning techniques that blame and stigmatize the victim. Further, communication and follow-up are essential and must be part of any protocol so that there is confidence and accountability and transparency that sexual assault policies and protocols are being adhered to scrupulously.
Students deserve better and faster action, but mostly we all need to commit to a culture of absolute zero tolerance for campus sexual assault.
Wendee M. Wechsberg, Ph.D., is director of the RTI Global Gender Center.
The RTI Global Gender Center is sponsoring a program for women’s centers from our local universities, including UNC, to share their activities and how they have created safe places for students.
When: Thursday, 4 to 6 p.m.
Where: RTI campus in Research Triangle Park
More info: Email email@example.com.