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The Daily Tar Heel

Survivors have many options in reporting sexual assault

The University's new sexual assault policy was created in 2014, and the Chapel Hill Police Department created its current policy in 2004. While these policies exist, some people have concerns about them. 

R., a survivor of sexual assault who wishes to remain anonymous and originally spoke to The Daily Tar Heel in September, went to the emergency room to get medical attention and evidence collection, she said. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to report the assault at first, but then changed her mind and reported.

While she filed a report with the Chapel Hill Police Department, she did not ask for a police investigation because she wanted her privacy. Later R. filed a report through the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office and asked for an investigation through UNC.

Part of the reason she decided to request an investigation through the University was the projected timeline for the process.

“I thought that the school’s investigation would be over in three months, roughly,” R. said. “An investigation through the police, I was told, could take years.”

Other reasons for initiating the investigation through the school and not through the police was because she wanted to keep her privacy and thought the school’s investigation could result in a more helpful outcome for other survivors of sexual assault.

“A big part of it was I had to think, "What do I want out of this? What do I want the outcome to be?” she said. “What can I do that will ultimately reduce occurrences of sexual assault? I didn’t feel like sending someone to jail. I guess it really depends on your personal situation, but I’m overly sympathetic.”

She would have preferred that her attacker was suspended or expelled instead of going to jail, she said. Receiving school sanctions rather than criminal sanctions, she thought, would give her attacker an opportunity at reform and make him a better person.

Though the school had given her a three month estimate on the investigation period, R. said it took about 11 months from her formal request for the opening of the investigation to its close. The initial investigation took four to five months because of the report’s detail, and a few weeks later, the finding was released.

R. said the extra time for the investigation was because her investigator was thorough with her case. She said she got the impression the investigators were overburdened, but that her investigator was doing her best to help R.’s case.

“My impression was that she was working overtime and really working diligently to put together a detailed report in a timely manner, and I felt like she respected me and respected my energy and my school and work schedule,” R. said.

Even with issues with timing, Katie Nolan, interim Title IX compliance coordinator, said the team at the office is dedicated and well-trained.

The hearing was where R. ran into the most trouble during the whole process. It took five months, R. said, and it took another three weeks to get the decision to her. According to the EOC reporting policy, hearings should generally be concluded in 25 business days and the decision should have taken a week to get to her.

The hearing panel is made up of three volunteers who have been trained in the effects of trauma, Nolan said. They have a mandatory three-day initial training and continual training through the year.

“I felt like my time was not being respected at all in the hearing process,” R. said. “It felt like it was unnecessarily being drawn out. They scheduled the first day for outside of the 25 day mark, and that was kind of ridiculous to me. They announced that date right before a really important academic date for me, which I had previously told them about.”

R. said she had to fit her school and work schedule around the hearings. She had to take off work for every hearing.

“It was just a lot for me to process emotionally. I’d get my hopes up that it was just going to be over,” R. said.

Nolan said due to the large number of people involved in the process, timelines have to be adjusted.

“We have absolutely no control sometimes over the timelines because we are at the mercy of busy students, busy attorneys, busy support people,” she said. 

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