College Sexual Assault Survivors Form Underground Network To Reform Campus Policies
APRIL 02, 2013

Annie Clark's wall is covered with notes and news clippings about people who, like her, resent how their school responded to their sexual assault.

Clark initially didn't tell many people about the attack she survived as a freshman at the University of North Carolina in 2007. Few close friends knew, and her family wouldn't hear the full details until she was preparing to file a complaint against UNCwith the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights in January. The complaint alleges UNC failed to provide adequate resources and properly respond to victims reporting sexual assaults on campus. UNC has not responded to the entire complaint, but has pledged to cooperate fully with the OCR investigation and hired Gina Smith, a Philadelphia-based attorney, to advise the school on reforming its policies.

Soon after Clark filed the complaint along with others, news stories about it and the broader trend of sexual assaults on college campuses began to gain attention on the Internet. Clark, who graduated from UNC in 2011 and now lives in Oregon, began to receive emails and messages from students all over the country who shared similar experiences they endured at their schools -- and Clark kept notes. Now a visitor to her apartment can see stacks of folders and documents detailing assault victims' cases from Amherst College, Stanford, Penn State, Harvard, Yale and several universities in North Carolina. A map on her wall plots the schools geographically under a banner she's titled "The Bigger Picture."

The result is an informal network of sexual assault survivors who have formed around Clark.

Tyler Kingkade

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