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UNC recently released survey results regarding the campus climate on sexual misconduct and sexual assault. The statistics are staggering. Forty-five percent of undergraduate women reported they’d experienced some type of non-consensual sex during their time at the University of North Carolina. Nearly half.

Even with the heightened awareness and an ever-increasing prevalence of these occurrences across the nation, these numbers are still shocking. Among other findings, the UNC report also said: 

  • At least a third of UNC female undergrads are sexually assaulted during college.  
  • 1 in 5 UNC undergraduate women experience rape.
  • About 10% of male UNC undergrads are victims of non-consensual sex.
  • Statistics for those who identify as LGBTQ or otherwise mirror those of women.
  • Overall rates of UNC campus sexual crimes have actually risen since 2015.

Across the majority of public and private schools who participated in this survey, official campus offense reporting and campus survey results simply don’t match.

With all of the attention this is getting, though, expect that to change. College students should be aware of what the law says about sexual offenses, and what penalties they could face upon a criminal conviction.

First, though, why the discrepancy?

The Clery Act vs. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act

Two pieces of policy that guide campus proceedings seem to be at odds when broaching the subject of campus sex crimes. 

The Clery Act

The Clery Act requires any institution of post-secondary education that receives federal funding to share security reporting with the public annually. The report must include three years of campus crime statistics and address measures for improving on-campus safety. 

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a series of rights granted to parents protecting the privacy of their children’s education records. Rights are transferred to the student when they turn 18 or enter college. 

Dueling Policies Leave NC Victims Feeling Unsafe

While FERPA only protects education records (not campus police reports, for instance) if university proceedings regarding a sexual assault take place, public record status can change. 

So, say campus law enforcement submits its rape report to education officials conducting student hearings to address it. Those documents become protected as a part of the offending student’s (private) educational record.

The fact is on-campus conviction and penalties simply don’t happen very often, so victims are left deciding between continuing their education in an environment where they no longer feel safe… or calling it quits.

As a result, college students are calling for change

Which leads us back to why those numbers are likely to get a lot closer in the coming years. With continued efforts to expose these issues, there’s a big chance broader publicity could lead to more sexual assault and sexual misconduct charges on North Carolina campuses.

How North Carolina Law Addresses Non-Consensual Sex

In our state, sexual assault is defined nearly identically to rape, except for one key difference: penetration. Rape is legally defined as forcing another person to have non-consensual sex, and offenses are separated by two degrees.

First-Degree Rape

First-Degree Rape occurs when one or more of the following circumstances are present:

  • Possession of a deadly weapon
  • Infliction of serious injury upon the victim
  • Involves one or more offenders

Second-Degree Rape

Second-Degree rape charges are made when non-consensual sex occurs and the victim is incapable of giving consent due to mental disability, incapacitation, or other physical helplessness.

North Carolina Rape Convictions

A conviction for any act of non-consensual sex committed in this state will result in far heavier penalties than what NC college campuses typically impose.

A state conviction for rape can result in a prison sentence between 44 months and a life term. You may also be forced to participate in rehabilitation programs, and to pay restitution to the victim. You may even be required to register as a North Carolina sex offender.

North Carolina Sexual Assault Defense Attorney

If you have been accused of sexual assault on a college campus, don’t wait. Now is the time to seek professional advice. Your next actions could define the rest of your life.

Reach out to an experienced North Carolina sex crimes defense attorney to learn about your rights and find the guidance to face these charges head-on.

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