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Mother of sexual assault victim in Carmichael Residence Hall petitions for more secure dorms

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DTH Photo Illustration. Following the assault at Carmichael Residence Hall, the mother of the victim has partnered with other parents to express safety dorm concerns to the University. “To me, this is an opportunity for them. It's an opportunity to acknowledge that something could be done and something will be done.”

Content Warning: This article contains mentions of sexual assault.

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On Oct. 22, a student was sexually assaulted inside of Carmichael Residence Hall. 

In an effort to prevent another assault from occurring, the mother of the victim has partnered with other UNC parents to express dorm safety concerns to the University.

“It was daylight. He was in his own room doing work,” she said. “And if that can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.”

Following the assault, she posted a message to a Facebook group for UNC parents. The reaction she received was so compelling that she decided to create a petition asking for a third-party security evaluation of University residence halls. At the time of publication, the petition had over 3,600 signatures. 

“You know, I'm not trying to be litigious. I'm not. I'm not against UNC. I just think that if we can't — or if they can't — admit that their security is lacking, then there's really a problem,” she said. 

She has found strength in a community of UNC parents who have met to discuss these concerns. Among these individuals is Karen Hornfeck, parent of a first-year student.

“We certainly want to make sure when something horrific like this happens that we come together as a community — administrators, parents and students — and take an honest look at a problem and resolve it,” Hornfeck said. 

She said that she decided to advocate for increased security, not only as a mom with an on-campus student, but also as a supporter of the victim and his family.  

“That says to him that he matters, that this was something that we see has caused pain and we don't want it to happen again, and that what he went through is not for nothing.”

Together, these parents have compiled a list of concerns they would like the University to address. 

The list includes five main areas of concern, many of which they believe would have been helpful in the victim’s case: reviewing procedures, ensuring that exterior dorm doors are secure, limiting dorm entry points, communicating in a timely fashion about safety issues and installing exterior cameras. 

Some parents, including the victim’s mother, have heard reports that certain exterior doors do not close completely, undermining the building’s lock system.

There are also no cameras outside of numerous University residence halls, including Carmichael Hall. This means that there is no footage of the attacker from Oct. 22. 

Lack of footage, paired with the fact that the victim was also unable to get a good look at the assailant, largely decreases the likelihood that the assailant will be identified. 

“I feel like when you don't have cameras on your campus, you're creating a culture of ‘we don't want to know,’ and that's not acceptable,” the victim’s mother said. 

The mother also expressed concerns that there was no alert of her son’s assault until five hours later.   

“So you could have reasonably been in the room next door. And the person who did this could still be in the dorm,” she said. 

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Noor Kazi, a sophomore at UNC who lives in Carmichael, said that she has felt less safe following the assault.  

“Thinking that someone could violate you so easily just because you're being a nice person and letting someone in is very scary to me,” she said. 

She felt the impact in little ways, like in her suite, where they began to lock the doors after the attack.

Kazi said that she didn’t think there was any security at the dorm further than residents’ keys.   

“I think it's important for them to have cameras outside because I know there's been robberies and stuff in other dorm buildings too,” she said. 

Overall, the mother of the victim said that she feels insulted by the University’s lack of response and lack of helpfulness in supporting her son’s transition to remote learning after the assault. 

“I have received no response from the administration in terms of just expressing empathy at all,” she said.

In the end, she said she would not accept silence from the University and administration on this issue. 

In an email to University administrators and local politicians she said, “On so many levels, I feel as though UNC has failed him.”

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Lauren Rhodes

Lauren Rhodes is the 2024 university editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant editor and senior writer for the university desk. Lauren is a sophomore pursuing a double major in media and journalism and political science with a minor in politics, philosophy and economics.