After exhausting the Title IX appeals process at UNC, Ford said the University told her she can no longer fight this at the university level. She said her only options left are to file a civil suit against the perpetrator or take action against the University.
“What I want is accountability on behalf of the University. That’s what I want to see, is for them to hold him accountable and tell him, 'No, this isn’t OK,' so that he doesn’t do it again,” Ford said. “That’s what I want. I don’t want it to happen to any other student here.”
In a statement on behalf of the University, Director of Media Relations Joanne Peters Denny said they cannot confirm the existence or nonexistence of a specific case due to privacy reasons, but that they take sexual misconduct reports seriously. Peters Denny said the University reviewed and updated Title IX enforcement policy in 2014, including sexual misconduct case policy.
“We are committed to the ongoing safety and well-being of our students, to providing appropriate care, support and resources to all parties, and to conducting fair, thorough investigations in a timely fashion,” she said.
Ford said she reported her assault to Title IX, the Chapel Hill Police Department, the N.C. Army National Guard Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, UNC Hospitals, Campus Health and Counseling and Psychological Services. She said she turned over medical records, audio recordings documenting conversation following the assault, text message screenshots and photos of blood and bruising. In addition to this evidence, Ford said she had six witnesses to speak on her behalf from either the night of the assault or from the following week to account her emotional state.
According to UNC’s Equal Compliance and Opportunity Office website, they seek to resolve reports within 55 days. Ford said her investigation took nearly six months, time in which she medically underloaded her course schedule, sought counseling for her psychological health and halted her military training.
“I don’t think Title IX took into account how it’s affected me on a personal level,” Ford said. “They only want to look at like, ‘Is there any way we can find that it’s just he said she said,’ as opposed to looking at the concrete facts and the aftermath of the victim impact. It’s like they don’t care about you as people. You’re just numbers to them. You’re a case number.”
In the statement, Peters Denny said the length of the investigation is dependent on factors such as the number of witnesses, the number of attorneys involved, scheduling logistics, information requests from outside agencies and off-campus law enforcement officials' involvement.
“We conduct factual investigations in a fair and thorough manner, recognizing there are many variables that affect each investigation and the length of time it takes to complete them,” Peters Denny said.
Ford said sexual assault is a problem in these male-dominated military and ROTC programs at universities. She said two of her fellow soldiers have also been assaulted by the same perpetrator, but in fear of jeopardizing their military careers, have yet to report.
“By finding him not responsible, they are saying what you did isn’t wrong, and you can continue doing this to other students down the line,” Ford said. “With him being a first-year, that’s a concern of mine, that he’s going to continue to do this to other female service members, cadets and students.”