The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday January 17th

Op-ed: How UNC betrays survivors like me

UNC is rife with sexual assault. It's time to do better.

DTH Photo Illustration. DFSAs, or drug facilitated sexual assaults, reportedly make up about 75 percent of all occurrences of sexual assault.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. DFSAs, or drug facilitated sexual assaults, reportedly make up about 75 percent of all occurrences of sexual assault.

You never think it could happen to you, until it does. 

I took a sexual assault prevention course the summer before I began college, per my loving and protective mother’s advice. I learned the significance of situational awareness and training techniques to protect myself against potential assailants. I have always known the sobering statistic that one in five women are victims of sexual assault in college, although it never seemed to be more than a distant fact.

Confidential support is available for those affected by sexual violence.

I believed I had the tools and tactics to protect myself from assault. Once I started school, my chief concerns were making an “A” on my first-year seminar essay and deciding if my friends and I should go to Med Deli or The Pizza Press for dinner (Med Deli, obviously). 

I felt confident to take on college. I was in love with UNC — excelling in classes, learning from passionate professors and making memorable friendships, all while enjoying the quintessential feeling of freedom that comes with your first year of college.

My entire life changed when I was drugged and raped at a fraternity cocktail last year.

I finished my first beer when I was handed a drink from a brother. After my first sip, the rest of the night was hazy and disorienting. My memory fuzzily fades in and out, but I will never be able to escape the haunting, unforgettable reminder of my rapist forcing himself inside me underneath my dress. I was unable to move or speak, and certainly could not consent. 

I woke up the next morning in my dorm room covered in bruises, blood and vomit. A girl at the party was concerned for my almost catatonic state and the gushing gash dripping down my body, and, along with a friend, took me back to my dorm. I still don’t know how I got that scar, but I don’t want to imagine. 

I should have immediately reported my assault, but like the 80 percent of sexual assaults that go unreported, I didn’t.

I felt powerless against the potent threat of the fraternity that stripped me of my innocence and stole much more than my first year. I was petrified of the backlash I would receive from those defending the University’s reputation. 

In an all-too-common act of victim-blaming, I believed my rape was my fault. I was taught never to drink anything I didn’t see poured. The risks of frat parties always seemed distant — I enjoyed many throughout the year and was friends with brothers. By telling only a few close friends about my assault, I isolated myself from the world long before the pandemic began. 

My nightmares never seem to stop, my anxiety and depression skyrocketed, I can’t shake panic attacks and my grades suffered. My scar may someday heal, but what happened that night will always stay with me. 

My story is, unfortunately, not unique. I was a first-year during the incident, and 84 percent of female survivors report being sexually assaulted during their first four semesters. I am in Greek life, and women in sororities are 74 percent more likely to experience sexual assault.

UNC has a disturbing and disgraceful history of mishandling sexual assault. Last year, the University was slammed with a $1.5 million fine for Title IX violations surrounding the management of sexual assault cases and failure to obey federal law on reporting campus crime. 

One in three undergraduate women at UNC have been sexually assaulted — yet UNC has received only 200 reports of sex offenses since 2007, and just 15 of these reports have been found to violate UNC’s policy on sexual assault. One survivor stated if she knew there were only 10 to 15 people held responsible before her, she never would have reported her assault.

UNC needs to be held accountable for its failure to punish perpetrators. If it isn’t, more women will feel their stories are unimportant, leaving countless assaults unreported and perpetrators free — an especially concerning fact considering repeat rapists commit the majority of sexual crimes.

UNC also needs to hold fraternities responsible for their use of date-rape drugs and legacy of sexual assault on campus. Rape culture is engrained in the facade fraternities call “brotherhood.” With parties powered by seemingly unlimited alcohol and some members with access to date-rape drugs, fraternities foster an unsafe arena for predators to prey on those most vulnerable. 

The abolition of Greek life is a protested but popular topic at the country’s most prestigious schools. Fraternities aren’t about community service or finding true friendship — they stand to uphold systems of misogyny, racism and classism. UNC must eliminate these organizations to protect victims and ensure our patterns of experiences aren’t repeated.

Every student deserves to feel safe on a campus supposed to protect them. Institutional betrayal of the highest degree must no longer be tolerated. 

I can only hope I attend a university that will do more than the bare minimum to make sure my story isn’t repeated, starting with holding perpetrators accountable and reforming the institutions that enable sexual assault on campus. 


UNC Class of 2023

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