Delaney’s story reveals a great injustice, not only because the institution she trusted to protect and support her failed to do so, but because The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has failed to do so time and time again despite multiple ongoing federal investigations, reformed policies, and institutional promises to do better.
In January 2013, two EROC co-founders, among other UNC student survivors and a former administrator, filed federal complaints with US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and Clery Compliance Divisions, accusing the university of both mishandling and underreporting sexual assault cases. More than three years have passed since OCR opened an investigation into the alleged violations at UNC. While there have been policy and personnel improvements, clearly we must do more. Why are survivors still being denied their civil right of equal access to education?
During an interview with the accused, UNC campus police assured him “don’t sweat it, just keep on living your life and playing football.” In contrast, Delaney was treated as a suspect by campus investigators, blamed repeatedly throughout her interrogation, “What were you wearing? What were you drinking? How much did you drink? How much did you eat that day? Did you lead him on? Have you hooked up with him before? Do you often have one-night stands? Did you even say no? What is your sexual history? How many men have you slept with?”
Delaney’s story is not an isolated incident; it is unfortunately representative of a larger epidemic, both within the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and on college campuses across the country.
The Stanford case taught us that justice is as elusive as it is precious. Baylor University and Florida State University taught us that to some, winning football games is more important than student safety. Notre Dame taught us that the preservation of athlete privilege comes at great cost. These cases are strikingly similar, but while UNC is not alone in its mistreatment of survivors, it is similarly not absolved of its responsibility to do the right thing.
We hope UNC teaches us that those abuses end here.
We all have a responsibility and the ability to change culture. We must start by believing survivors, like Delaney, and supporting them as they hold their institutions accountable.