OPINIONS

Responding to rape at Stanford

Provost Etchemendy’s message in response to Evan Spiegel’s emails rightly received praise across campus, social media and news outlets. As we heed Etchemendy’s call to “reflect on our common values,” we find ourselves wondering this: How can we launch a more powerful response to sexual violence?

We are offended by Spiegel’s language and the culture it promotes, but we are more incensed by the very real violence perpetrated by and against Stanford students and our collective insufficient response to it. Too many of our peers are violated by their classmates every year. A 2012 Vaden student survey revealed that four percent of Stanford students report that they have been raped, seven percent penetrated sexually against their will and 15 percent have engaged in intercourse under pressure. This must change.

Many throw up their hands and say we are doing all we can. That’s not true. With a $19 billion endowment, 22 Nobel Laureates and an unstoppable innovation engine, we have no excuse for failure. Stanford can lead the country in addressing sexual assault – but only if we choose to. Here are three meaningful steps we can take right now:

 

1. Expel Rapists

While rape survivors are common, rapists are less so. Repeat offenders account for nine out of every 10 rapes on college campuses, raping an average of 5.8 victims. Since most rapes aren’t reported, rapists can be hard to identify. When students are found guilty of rape, they should face expulsion, not a mere suspension. This is not only for the sake of justice, but also to prevent future violence.

Unfortunately, expulsion is not Stanford’s modus operandi. According to Stanford Law School professor Michele Dauber, who headed the Board of Judicial Affairs from 2011-13 and was one of the authors of the Alternate Review Process (ARP), there were nine cases of students found responsible for sexual assault between 2005-11. Eight cases involved suspensions, and only one student – a serial rapist – was expelled. Stanford should follow Dartmouth, Amherst and Duke in adopting mandatory expulsion for students found guilty of sexual assault.

 

2. Increase Investment in Prevention and Response

Addressing sexual assault requires sustained and comprehensive interventions. Stanford’s current programs are under resourced. The Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Office has two staff members, and one seat was recently vacated. That won’t do.

Stanford can and should invest more in efforts like those highlighted by the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, including bystander education and comprehensive survivor support.

Stanford should also share information about where assaults occur. Currently students are deprived of information they could use to make informed decisions about staying as safe as possible on campus as well as data they could use to advocate for changes in dangerous houses. If the administration won’t do this, students should innovate or partner with third-party organizations – Ushahidi or Sexual Health Innovations, for example – to make this happen.

Stanford can also lead in student-designed innovations and programming. Students have a critical view from the trenches that, combined with the school’s entrepreneurial culture, can bring fresh approaches to the issue of sexual violence. A social innovation competition and funding to student groups could spur new interventions.

 

3. Take the Survivor’s Perspective

As one student pressing charges shared, “Being a rape victim is a full-time job.” Despite recent improvements, Stanford’s judicial process places a severe administrative burden on the survivor, often leaving survivors to face a tradeoff between healing and the pursuit of justice. Survivors need centralized support to help navigate the process.

Stanford should also consider the option of removing accused students from campus on a case-by-case basis, as is legally permitted under Title IX. While an alleged sexual assault is under investigation, the principle of innocence until proven guilty and the right of all students to pursue their education free from fear or intimidation may be in conflict. Stanford needs a process for considering the balance of harms in adjudicating such conflicts.

Right now, the status quo favors the accused: no student can be completely removed from campus until after the ARP process, including all appeals. This can take months and come at the expense of the education of the alleged victim and other students; the alleged victim must either leave or suffer the psychological burden of close proximity to his or her attacker. This is not to say that the accused should be automatically barred from campus – just that Stanford should have a process for considering it where appropriate.

Lastly, Stanford should review cases as swiftly as possible. Under the ARP, cases are supposed to be reviewed within the 30-day general guideline. In practice it can take much longer, further traumatizing the survivor.

Provost Etchemendy is right – we can do better. Stanford can and should lead the national movement to finally fully respond to sexual assaults on college campuses. These steps would be a great start.

Anna Ninan, MBA ’15

Jonny Dorsey ’09 MBA ’14

 

Contact Anna Ninan and Jonny Dorsey at aninan@stanford.edu and jdorsey@stanford.edu.

  • Jonathan Poto

    “Stanford should also consider the option of removing accused students from campus on a case-by-case basis, as is legally permitted under Title IX. While an alleged sexual assault is under investigation, the principle of innocence until proven guilty and the right of all students to pursue their education free from fear or intimidation may be in conflict. Stanford needs a process for considering the balance of harms in adjudicating such conflicts.”

    Props to this idea.

  • Radioedit

    Why have a process at all? I think anyone accused of sexual misconduct should be expelled immediately. Luckily things seem to be quickly moving in that direction.

  • What?

    “While an alleged sexual assault is under investigation, the principle of innocence until proven guilty and the right of all students to pursue their education free from fear or intimidation may be in conflict.” Wow. It is astonishing that innocent until proven guilty would be sacrificed so easily. You already have a system where conviction can be made with a mere preponderance of evidence. What more do you want? At least give the accused some rights, that’s why they’re called the accused.

  • I’m amazed…

    Please, for the love of god, consider that the ideas you post here have effects on peoples lives. It is beyond my comprehension how such an irresponsible opinion can be voiced. Clearly, the level of maturity on this campus has not reached the level that I had hoped.

    Have you ever considered the possibility that a student can be accused of rape without having committed the crime? Put yourself in the position of a man who tries to live his life with honesty. You consider your ethics to be the most important thing to you, and you are abhorred by the mere idea of violating a woman’s dignity. You always do everything you can to respect women, and encourage your classmates to do the same. However, one unlucky day you are falsely accused of sexual misconduct. It does not matter why this false accusation was made, but the fact is that it could not be farther from the truth. You feel betrayed, perhaps even by somebody you once cared about. You are being accused of one of the heinous acts a person can commit, and you have nobody to support you–you are ashamed to tell your parents about the accusation, or even your closest friends. You do not know how to deal with the OCS people (who have been accused of significant misconduct in the past). You know you are going to face a slanted and unfair process, with a very low bar for evidence. You are terrified that this will compromise your entire future, ruin your life. This process goes on for months, all the time with the idea being in the back of your head–you suffer through these months, perhaps even years. Even worse: the low bar for evidence and the unfair OCS process (please look this up if you do not know what I am talking about) result in a guilty verdict. Your life is ruined. You will never recover from this–you have been found guilty of one of the worst things that a man could do, even though you have nothing but respect for women.

    You propose that we take this innocent man, and sacrifice the last bit of justice that he might have access to?

    Give me a break. Please go live in the real world for some time before posting such absurd opinions. YES, rape is a terrible thing–next to murder, perhaps the single worst thing that a human being can do to another. However, JUSTICE should be valued above all else. Please, just try to put yourself in the shoes of whoever you are talking about, in the future. Things are often not as straight-forward as you think. Human dealings are complicated things, rarely black and white–sure, it may be the case that most accusations of rape are truthful, but not all of them are. The world is more complicated than you make it out to be–please consider this the next time you publish an opinion.

  • i’m disgusted…

    Please, for the love of god, consider that the ideas you post here have effects on peoples lives. It is beyond my comprehension how such an irresponsible opinion can be voiced. Clearly, the level of maturity on this comment has not reached the level that I had hoped.

    Have you ever considered the possibility that a student can be accused of falsely reporting rape without having committed the crime? Put yourself in the position of a woman (but really, an individual) who tries to live their life with honesty. You consider your ethics to be the most important thing to you, and you are abhorred by the mere idea of violating a man’s/another individual’s dignity. You always do everything you can to respect men/others, and encourage your classmates to do the same. However, one unlucky day you are falsely accused of falsely accusing another of sexual misconduct. It does not matter why this false accusation was made, but the fact is that it could not be farther from the truth. You feel betrayed, perhaps even by somebody you once cared about. You are being accused of falsely reporting one of the heinous acts a person can commit, and you have nobody to support you–you are ashamed to tell your parents about the accusation, or even your closest friends. You do not know how to deal with the OCS people (who have been accused of significant misconduct in the past). You know you are going to face a slanted and unfair process, with a very questionable bar for evidence. You are terrified that this will compromise your entire future, ruin your life. This process goes on for months, all the time with the idea being in the back of your head–you suffer through these months, perhaps even years. Even worse: the arbitrary bar for evidence and the unfair OCS process (please look this up if you do not know what I am talking about) result in a not-guilty verdict. Your life is ruined. You will never recover from this–your assailant has been found not-guilty of one of the worst things that an individual could do, even though you wanted nothing but respect from both them and the University.

    You propose that we leave this guilty man walking unscathed, and sacrifice the last bit of justice that the survivor might have access to?

    Give me a break. Please go live in the real world for some time before posting such absurd opinions. Rape is a terrible thing. And JUSTICE is rarely if ever valued in the system as it stands. Please, just try to put yourself in the shoes of whoever you are talking about, in the future. Things are often not as straight-forward as you think. Human dealings are complicated things, rarely black and white–sure, it may be the case that most accusations of rape are truthful, but LESS THAN 2% OF THEM ARE NOT. The world is more complicated than you make it out to be–please consider this the next time you publish an opinion.

  • Anonymous

    It’s too bad that the rate of false accusation is somewhere between 2-8% according to the FBI, and that even this is higher than the reality, since it includes cases in which the victim did not try to fight off the suspect, did not sustain physical injuries, had a previous sexual relationship with the subject, or was not assaulted with physical force or a weapon. While you tell a tragic (if trite) tale of “justice” gone wrong, your invented scenario almost never happens, and too often dictates opinion about how we should treat those accused of rape.

  • Class of 14

    How is it even really possible to gather statistics on the number of false rape accusations? I mean to say, yes, it’s probably true that 2-8% of rape claimants recant or alter their testimony at some later date. But what about all the cases that were reported to the police that were not prosecuted by the DA? What about all the cases that were prosecuted by the DA but not convicted by the jury? It’s no easier to prove that a claim of rape was false than for the DA to prove that the claim was true.

    Still, for the purposes of argumentation, let’s take your statistic at face value. That’s still 2-8% of the cases! The upper end of that range is higher than the Stanford acceptance rate, and you got in here (I take it). The point is, low probabilities does not mean something is impossible. In fact, it’s empirically proven that humans are psychologically bad at dealing with low probabilities, estimating them at 0% when in reality they occur with relative frequency. Our justice system was set up precisely to protect the 2-8 (but probably higher) percentage of alleged perpetrators who are wrongfully accused.

  • A male stanford student

    Are you FUCKING kidding me? Hey Jonathan, what are you going to do when you hook up with a girl, its totally consensual… but then you don’t call her the next day, her friends slut shame her, she convinces herself and everyone around here that it was “rape” and you get kicked off campus without anyone EVEN HEARING YOUR STORY!

    Now, pretend your not an American prick and you are an international student who is here on a visa. You are about to graduate in two weeks after paying $200,000 for a Stanford education, and you have an amazing job lines up for next year( in the US). You are falsely accused of rape. You get kicked off campus, without anybody hearing your story (great idea bro). You get expelled and deported. You will never have the Stanford degree that you have worked your ass off the last four years to earn.

    Sadly, there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to “rape” on college campuses (bring it on feminazis). Real rape (i.e. assault) is horrible. When a guy and a girl get drunk and mutually make a bad decision… that’s something totally different. And it’s really sad that girls can get drunk, irresponsibly sleep with someone, regret it the next day, and ruin their lives. Getting deported because of a false rape charge–that’s a lot more than a full time job.

  • They rapin errybody out der?

    It’s also sad that 9 out of 10 statistics about rape are bullshit, including the one you just posted (and I don’t even need to mention the 1 in 4 stat…)

  • They shouldn’t vote or drive

    For instance, how is this even possible?????

    “Repeat offenders account for nine out of every 10 rapes on college campuses, raping an average of 5.8 victims”

    That math doesn’t seem to add up to me. But then again, since when were women good at math.

  • Jonathan Poto

    The story says that the university, “should consider” immediate removal of the student from the campus. I highly doubt in a case like you described there will be numerous gray areas in the details that the university would not preemptively expel/suspend an accused student. But to say have a rule such that the university has no flexibility to remove students until after Alternative Review Process is stupid. For example if theres damning evidence (witnesses for example) that a rape occurred, Stanford should removing that student immediately, whether law enforcement steps in or not (the later of which is a possibility as we’ve seen again and again)

  • Bob

    That’s an absolutely terrible idea. We live in a country where the accused have a right to a fair trial. If you just make it so anyone accused is expelled, this will lead to false accusations being thrown around due to grudges/arguments/fights. Haven’t you heard of the Salem Witch Trials and McCarthyism?

  • Female Stanford Alumni
  • pierceharlan
  • Wait

    Look up accusation versus allegation. There’s a legal difference. Allegations are much more common and likely to happen on college campuses.

  • Szebran

    There is a post titled “the national campaign against male college students” I see this Op Ed fits right in with that post.

  • VoiceofReason

    Those two numbers are not in conflict. Let’s rephrase them:

    90% of rape victims on college campuses are the victims of those who have already committed at least one rape. Repeat offenders average 5.8 victims during their time on a college campus.

  • VoiceofReason

    “Ninan and Dorsey blithely ignore the fact that the interim measure they
    advocate — a potentially life-altering removal of the presumptively
    innocent man from campus — would work a far greater hardship on him
    than the “psychological burden of close proximity” that his accuser
    might suffer if he isn’t removed. No matter. His rights are not only
    trumped, they are eviscerated, by virtue of a rape accusation. Nice
    “balance,” wouldn’t you say?

    Bullshit. You cannot say across the board that removing the accused is a greater hardship on them than it would be for the victim if they stayed. In the case of the Stanford student whose dealings with the school’s sexual assault policies helped bring these issues to light, the victim was harassed & threatened by the accused party and some of his peers. That’s why Ninan and Dorsey call for a case-by-case review. The example given of Parisi vs. Drew University is one case in which the university would likely allow the accused to remain on campus, but it is within their legal right to remove them, regardless.

  • Hey…HEY!

    I think that was sarcasm, Skeeter.

  • pierceharlan

    If the accuser is “harassed & threatened by the accused party,” those are offenses separate and distinct from the initial charge of sexual assault and might require interim measures to stanch the harm.

    But that is not the harm this article talked about when it called for the school to adopt interim measures on a case-by-case basis. It described the harm as the “psychological burden of close proximity to his or her attacker.”

    To elevate the accuser’s feelings above the presumptively innocent man’s interest in obtaining an education is anathema to bedrock principles of due process and fairness. The desire to battle sexual assault is a noble impulse, but hostility to due process is not.

    As for the school’s “legal right to remove” an accused student, our courts are not nearly as sure and certain as you seem to be.

  • Lovelle Miles

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  • VoiceofReason

    We’re not simply talking about “feelings” here, we’re talking about serious psychological damage. For a survivor of sexual assault, simply seeing their attacker again can bring on panic attacks, of varying intensity. By kicking the accused out of housing during pending investigation, Stanford would be elevating the accuser’s physical and mental health over the accused’s “right” to housing. Since they would still be permitted to go to class, their interest in obtaining an education would be protected.

    As to whether or not Stanford can legally remove the accused, if they weren’t sure that Title IX grants them that privilege, the housing contract we sign at the beginning of the year certainly does:

    “Breach of University residence policies; conduct in violation of the rights of others; misrepresentation of facts during the assignment process or on your housing application; not cleaning your room on a regular basis, or violation of the terms of this agreement or any supplemental house agreement is grounds for the immediate termination of your occupancy and/or the withdrawal of future University housing privileges, and may result in University disciplinary action under Stanford’s Fundamental Standard of student conduct. Students deemed ineligible for University housing and denied housing privileges for violation(s) of this agreement remain financially liable for the entire term of the quarter in which they are removed.”

    Stanford also reserves the right to change the Housing contract “from time to time without any notice,” so if they wanted to make it more explicit, they could.

  • VoiceofReason

    And fine, the person in question has only been accused of conduct in violation of the rights of others, and not found guilty yet, but even so:

    “A license is a revocable contract, and as such, the University retains the right to revoke the right to occupy University residences…You may be temporarily or permanently relocated to other housing or denied the privilege to live in any University housing at any time in accordance with University policies.”

    As of now, it might require an update to the housing contract or University policies in order for Stanford to be able to remove accused sexual assailants from campus with 100% legal certainty, but it would not be difficult.

  • Tracheal

    Totalitarian twits (feminists) will never respect the rights of the accused. In their endless campaign for filthy female superiority, they will do anything necessary to further their evil agenda. It’s time to go from astonished to enraged or to prepare for total tyranny on all levels.

  • John

    In response to some of the angry anti-feminist comments, I’d like to say that as another male student, I too am afraid that a change in current policy could result in me being wrongly accused of, found guilty of, and expelled for rape in the future.

    But why might talk of stricter policy (i.e. expulsion for people found guilty of rape) make me jump to the idea that women I have sex with on campus will all of a sudden start falsely accusing me of rape?
    I would challenge myself and other guys who might feel this way to try to figure out where that fear comes from and whether or not it is realistic.

    There are enough emotional undertones surrounding the issue of sexual assault that it is necessary for both sides, not just the reformist movement to consider how emotion might influence process. Underlying, almost subconscious fear is just as influential as anger in preventing effective decision making.

    Lastly, it is possible that a reformed system might not work well and students may be wrongly convicted of sexual assault, but if the system isn’t working now, should fear of potential problems prevent us from trying to solve current ones?

  • Kyle

    Which is worse: expelling an innocent man, or not giving justice to a woman who was raped? That’s the only real debate here. There is never any ‘real evidence’ in the consensual/non-consensual cases so any policy is going to treat many, many, situations unfairly. We can only decide which is worse amongst these two evils.

  • dont get drunk, dont get raped

    she’s blaming her poor academic performance on one drunk night…
    what is the purpose of ruining this guy’s life???
    is that “justice”?
    more like an excuse, or revenge

  • stop extremism

    If it is so clear that “statistics tell us that [it is] a very small group of men committing [sexual] crimes many times” why the push toward a “more fair” university judicial process that ends up with suspension and loss of housing as the outcome? The push should be toward legal proceedings that have jail as the outcome, Stanford student or otherwise.