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Closing Out Dating Violence Awareness Month – The UNC Landen Gambill Story


Post by Enrollment and Matching Specialist, Erica Brien

Here is the story:

In the spring of 2012, University of North Carolina (UNC) sophomore Landen Gambill stood in front of a special University Hearings Board to testify against her ex-boyfriend, telling the court that he had abused her – emotionally, physically and sexually – over an extended period of time. During the hearing, instead of being treated as a victim of assault, Gambill was blamed for the wrongdoings that she endured, and after speaking out against the way UNC handled her case, Gambill has been threatened with expulsion. Unfortunately, public denunciation of Gambill’s claims does not end with the University’s threats. An Op-Ed published in the Digital Journal asked, in reference to Gambill, why every “alleged victim” of sexual abuse or “indecent assault” should be lauded as a survivor, elaborating to say that Gambill was not violently attacked in an alleyway by a complete stranger, and, therefore, should not be considered a survivor. The opinion piece also stated that because Gambill was not a housewife tied down with three kids and dependent on her husband for financial support, nothing was preventing her from leaving her abuser. Sadly, however, the piece never decries her ex-boyfriend’s behavior.

Here is the reality:

  • In 2006, an estimated 673,000 (11.5%) of nearly 6 million women attending American colleges were raped, and only 12% of those rapes were reported to law enforcement (National Center for Victims of Crime; research funded by U.S. Department of Justice).
  • Females ages 16-24 are three times more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than any other age group (U.S. Department of Justice report on dating violence released in 2001).
  • Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year, and one in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence (
  • There are many reasons for victims to continue in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, including, but not limited to, conflicting emotions, such as fear, embarrassment, or love; feeling pressured, socially or culturally to continue within a relationship; distrusting authority; low self-esteem; immigration status and fear of deportation; reliance on an abusive partner, etc. In addition, on average, it takes a person seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship before being able to successfully do so (

If, as a society, we hope to take further steps towards equality, statements indicating that a person must be violently attacked by an unknown stranger in order to be considered a victim of abuse must be challenged. We must remind people that abuse can take many forms, that Gambill is not alone; she is one of hundreds of thousands of men and women who have been emotionally, physically and mentally affected by what, to them, felt abusive. And who has the right to define abuse or rape other than the people who have experienced it?

As February’s Dating Violence Awareness month comes to a close, it’s time that we, men and women, start asking ourselves why there are so many victims of dating violence.

  • Is the high occurrence of dating violence reflective on our own society as a whole?
  • Does it have anything to do with the messages we send to our children?
  • Is it fair that many young boys are told not to cry, that, in order to be masculine, they must be tough and void of emotion?
  • Is it fair to interrogate women like Gambill to the point of self-blame, questioning their emotional stability, and forcing them to relive traumatic experiences, instead of focusing on the deeper, societal issue that Gambill’s abuse represents?