Rape survivor demands change to Stanford’s sexual assault policies

Trigger warning: This article discusses sexual assault.

“Five months ago, I was forcibly raped by another Stanford student.”

So began an email by Leah Francis ’14 that quickly circulated throughout the Stanford community Tuesday night. In the email, Francis disclosed the story of her sexual assault and the ensuing judicial process, and called for reforms to the University’s handling of sexual assault cases.

According to documents obtained by The Daily, the University’s Alternate Review Process (ARP) found Francis’ rapist responsible for sexual assault, sexual misconduct and violating the Fundamental Standard. His punishment was a five-quarter suspension, 40 hours of community service and completion of a sexual assault awareness program.

However, the suspension does not take effect until summer 2014 and includes summer quarters, so Francis’ assailant, a member of the Class of 2014, can graduate on time and return in a year for graduate school. According to Francis, he was originally going to be allowed to walk at Commencement until Francis raised a complaint to Stanford’s Title IX coordinator.

In her email, Francis characterized this punishment as a “gap year.”

“Should he change his mind and decide to go to grad school elsewhere, he can choose to walk away from Stanford with no significant undergraduate consequences for forcibly sexually assaulting me,” she wrote.

Criticisms of ARP
In May 2013, Stanford adopted a revised Alternate Review Process following two years of review in response to the Dear Colleague Letter sent by the Department of Education in April 2011.  The new standard lowered the standard of proof from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to “a preponderance of the evidence” and made several changes to the process of reviewing sexual assault cases.

In an interview with The Daily, Francis was critical of the current process of adjudicating sexual assault cases.

“It really ruins your life. It’s really hard to maintain any semblance of acceptable grades [while going through the ARP],” Francis said, adding that she estimated that she had to write over 100 pages for the proceedings.  “[The process is] extremely detrimental to the ability of the survivor to keep on surviving.”

Francis reported the assault, which took place off campus early in the morning of Jan. 1, 2014, to the University on Jan. 7. According to documents obtained by The Daily, the assailant was notified that he was being formally charged on April 9. He was found guilty on April 25, and sanctions were announced on May 6.

In accordance with Title IX, schools must complete their investigations into sexual assault cases in a “reasonably prompt” time frame. According to the Department of Education, a typical investigation takes approximately 60 days, although compliance is determined on a case-by-case basis.

On June 2, Francis filed an appeal against the sanctions and requested that her assailant be expelled. The University has not yet ruled on the appeal.

Before filing her appeal, Francis requested further justification for the panel’s original sanctions. In additional information released on May 13, the panel explained its initial decision by stating, “[Francis’ assailant] demonstrated a commitment and ability to abide by University policy moving forward. The panel felt that his presence on campus will not constitute a threat to the Stanford community, and that expulsion is therefore unwarranted.”

According to Francis, the panelists were given a document containing Stanford’s precedent of sanctions for sexual assault cases to assist them in their decision-making. This document, which The Daily has obtained, indicates that the University has suspended nine students (for between one and eight quarters) and expelled one for sexual assault since 2005. Until Francis’ case, no student had been sanctioned for sexual assault since the 2010-11 school year.

Changes Demanded
Francis will be leading a “Rally for Reforming Sexual Violence Resources and Policy at Stanford” today in White Plaza. Students have been putting flyers around campus and are also planning to wear red tape on their caps at Commencement as a sign of protest. An online petition in favor of reform had over 800 signatures as of Wednesday night.

The protesters are demanding changes including mandatory expulsion for individuals found guilty of sexual assault, expanded resources for preventing sexual assault and better support for survivors of sexual assault.

According to Francis, her assailant can currently attend classes at Stanford but has to be escorted by a plainclothes officer at all times.

“Rather than providing a cushion around a person who has been convicted of a violent sex crime [to keep them away from the victim]…[Stanford] should be severing ties with that person,” Francis said.

Rebecca Felix ’14, another student involved in the campaign for Stanford to change its policies, said that the office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse (SARA) needs to expand its resources. Felix said that some survivors of sexual assault had contacted her and told her that when they visited the SARA office during drop-in hours, no one was there. Francis said that she had visited the office herself and found no one there.

Another reform that Francis would like is to assign each survivor of sexual assault a volunteer professor who can act as a resource and advisor. Francis said that when a tenured professor became involved in her case, the University became much more responsive to her needs. According to Francis, her assailant had continued to live near her residence for two weeks after the sanctions were returned against him, but was moved out of his housing the day she contacted a tenured professor.

Francis also called for secrecy rules to be relaxed during ARP proceedings.

“I felt like the University was trying to prevent me from getting the help that I needed,” Francis said.

University Response
In an email to The Daily, University spokesperson Lisa Lapin wrote that the University cannot comment on specific cases, but “we regret any circumstance in which a student believes a process here at Stanford has not met their expectations.”

“We take very seriously the pain and trauma that are generated by sexual assault,” Lapin wrote. “We have strengthened our programs in the area of sexual assault response and prevention over the last several years, seeking to provide support to individuals in crisis, encourage reporting, ensure fair and thorough disciplinary processes, and educate the community to prevent future incidents. But we are always looking to improve what we do, and we genuinely welcome input from students on how we can do better.”

In an interview, Lapin added that it would be premature to speculate about any additional reforms at this point.

The effort to change Stanford’s policy towards sexual assault comes at a time when sexual assault policies are being examined at colleges and universities across the country. On May 1, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released a list of 55 colleges under investigation for possible Title IX violations related to the handling of sexual assault cases. Stanford was not on this list.

The University recently hired a new Title IX Coordinator, Catherine Criswell. Criswell also refused to comment on a pending case, but wrote in an email to The Daily that she has “already begun active conversations with students, faculty, and staff around these issues.”

On Wednesday, the University provost posted a new website that listed resources for sexual assault survivors. The website explains that survivors have several options and recommends that survivors report their experience to the police and the University.

In the Facebook event for the rally, one student wrote that the website merely reiterates Stanford’s current policy. The post invited others to attend the protest and “let our university know that we are NOT looking for a new website, we are looking to change policies and the culture around sexual assault and abuse at [Stanford.]”

“We wanted to focus on changing campus culture, university policy and getting more resources for survivors of sexual assault, and we believe that having a rally in support of those objectives is the most productive thing we can do,” Francis said. “What we really care about is helping other survivors.”

Click here for photos and Tweets from Thursday’s rally.

Catherine Zaw contributed reporting.

Contact Caleb Smith at caleb17 ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

About Caleb Smith

Caleb Smith '17 is a Deputy Desk Editor from Oakland, California and is planning on majoring in public policy. He specializes in public safety and university issues but does not discriminate against other articles. Outside the Daily, Caleb is Co-director of news at KZSU Stanford, the campus radio station. Have a tip or suggestion? Please contact him at caleb17 ‘at’ stanford.edu.
  • Zack Selzman

    Unless you have concrete knowledge that I don’t it is not fair to say that SJG wasn’t raped, however I believe that it is fair to expect the higher standard that the Local Police provides to have her alleged assailant kicked out of school.

  • moth0

    According to the Dean of Students at Duke, if both students are drunk, the male is always at fault (Sue Wasiolek giving testimony at the appeal of a Duke student’s expulsion) :

    “They have raped each other and are subject to explusion?” Hitch asked.

    “Assuming it is a male and female, it is the responsibility in the
    case of the male to gain consent before proceeding with sex,” said
    Wasiolek.

  • oldstanford

    Does anyone else find this weird? That a female who is drunk didn’t do anything wrong but the guy did? I guess my feeling is that if you’re drunk you live with whatever the consequences of that are, and don’t go crying about what happened, don’t blame anyone but yourself. This picture of two drunks, one attempting to obtain consent from the other, is just laughable. Poor Stanford thought it had admitted students smart enough to know to avoid being drunk. Now they know the SU education has to include much more about drinking.

  • Kyle

    This is a tough problem. In most university rape cases, there are no witnesses. The male thinks it was consensual, the woman does not. Both parties admit to having sex, so a rape kit doesn’t prove much. It basically boils down to who you want to believe. This is a sensitive topic for me because I’ve known women whose assailants were allowed to walk free and men who were wrongfully charged.

    From a policy perspectives, you have to decide how to weight the cost of a false-positive to the cost of a false-negative. i.e. Which is worse: (1) letting a rapist go free or (2) charging an innocent man? In the “preponderance of evidence” method, they lower the burden of proof to ensure that a potential rapist never goes entirely free. However, they also lower the consequences. (will at least face suspension, etc). In the legal system, they up weight the cost of charging an innocent man. Once charged, the consequences are much more severe.

  • mother of sons

    “Hysterical feminist hate mongers”
    “Fascist feminist rape culture bigots”
    This language alone illustrates the problem. Regardless of the details of this particular case, that type of rhetoric is harmful and dangerous. Violence against women is pervasive and the judicial system is still trying to catch up after hundreds of years of ignoring the problems of domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment. I love men and I’m raising two wonderful boys to respect themselves and women. I am also a feminist, but I’m neither hysterical, a bigot or a fascist. I suggest you look at your own issues of misogyny.

  • moth0

    I wouldn’t use those phrases myself but how else would you describe this quote from a university (Duke) dean other than fascist and rape culture bigoted? Discussing the appeal of a Duke student expelled for rape and being questioned about consent when two students are both drunk:

    “They have raped each other and are subject to explusion?” Hitch asked.

    “Assuming it is a male and female, it is the responsibility in the
    case of the male to gain consent before proceeding with sex,” said
    Wasiolek.

    That’s a person in ultimate authority of a student’s academic career (fascist) giving sexist viewpoints (bigot). Definition of bigot: a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc.

    Is that catching up with the problem by assuming men are always at fault? How about lowering the standards of conviction to preponderance of evidence? Is that catching up with the problem? Is punishing innocent men such that no rapists go free catching up with the problem?

    Since you have boys, maybe you should start thinking about their futures. You’ve taught them to treat others. How do you want others to treat them? It’s hard for a long time feminist to make that switch of perspectives. While men have many privileges in society they also deserve to be treated fairly. How would you like one of your sons expelled just before graduating from an elite university based on the beliefs of someone like Sue Wasiolek (Duke Dean of Students)?

  • oldstanford

    I find the attitude of the Stand with Leah people demeaning to women. Women should be credited with the ability to be prudent and able to show by their actions and demeanor what they want and what they don’t want. They should be credited with the strength to acknowledge when they’ve fallen short and to assume responsibility for what happens when they do fall short.
    I think the problem with Leah and those standing with her is that they’ve grown up with an overly optimistic view of their fellow humans. Older generations failed them, failed to give them an accurate idea of how people are, how life is. Then along came Facebook, giving extreme importance to everything you do and everything that happens to you. The result of that plus over-optimism is probably that people end up with an exaggerated desire to blame someone else, spending enormous amounts of time working out why what the other person did was so wrong and how that person should pay for this wrongdoing.
    And nobody is asking why it is that one in five women is assaulted nowadays. Why would you not want to probe that? Because it is more satisfying just to blame one person instead of trying to discover all the places where things have gone wrong?

  • guest19

    My input as a law student: A civilized society, relying on Blackstone’s formulation that it is better that a guilty man go free than an innocent man be convicted, we ought to be very careful of labeling someone a criminal. The accused man had no day in court, no due process in legal terms, and yet is being treated as guilty. I understand people are saying it is hard to prosecute rape (and part of that is the crappy culture around it) but that does not mean we can just take a woman’s word (however strong) at face value. Until a court, legally equipped to determine guilt and innocence, convicts and charges him with guilt, he is “innocent” (in the eyes of the law).

    Stanford should keep its nose completely out of this. Its role is also not to dole out punishments. A civil cause of action would be appropriate (since it seems there was not enough evidence for criminal charges, curiously). Let courts do their thing. In a civilized society, every person deserves due process and to be TREATED as innocent until proven guilty, no matter how heinous the crime or sincere the accuser. I honestly believe he probably did assault her, but I can’t let my emotions guide me in contravention of the legal framework in place that errs on the side of letting guilty men go “free” than free men be treated as guilty (the risk of the latter being worse, in our system, than the former).

  • oldstanford

    reply to myself. Stanford failed those standing with Leah and Leah but not the way they thought. It failed by providing a grotesquely inadequate education.

  • Bob P

    The Stanford Judicial Council is dangerous. It has been given unrestricted and overly broad powers which are not reviewed by those with any expertise in legal matters. These people are not lawyers or judges. In fact, the participants are either kids or very undereducated adults. It is, as commenters have noted below, very much a kangaroo court. They are certainly not trained to investigate or evaluate criminal evidence. They really do not know what they are doing. So, let’s let them evaluate evidence in the most difficult of circumstances: a rape case. Give them unrestricted and unchallengeable power to inflict punishment…even in cases which DID NOT OCCUR ON CAMPUS. There was clearly NOT enough evidence for the district attorney in Alaska to indict the alleged rapist. And yet, not surprisingly, political pressure brought on by faculty and students, obliterated these facts in favor of a highly damaging emotional decision in which the boy is presumed guilty and due process is a mere formality (as with all decisions this body renders). Apparently, the mob rules…history is filled with examples, which I’m sure are taught at the university. I am fervently in favor of ending sexual assault, but these kinds of cases make bad law and bad policies. If the boy decided to sue, I would take the case. Stanford is gunning for some very high profile and damaging lawsuits. They should stick to cases which are university related, such as cheating. Leave the rest for the trained professionals. Certainly, finding guilt in a rape case is completely outside their expertise or jurisdiction. High time to trim the powers of a woefully inadequate and undereducated “Judicial” (give me a break) Council.

  • Michael Ejercito

    The only sexual assault policy Stanford needs is to leave it to police and prosecutors. Graham Spanier is no longer President of Penn State because he thought he and his crew could handle rape allegations without involving law enforcement.

    (This is one of the few instances where we must leave it to the government, not because government is 100% trustworthy, but because private individuals are even less trustworthy to deal with this issue.)

  • Michael Ejercito

    South v. Maryland, 59 u.s. 396 (1855) forecloses a federal claim, because there is no federal duty to protect her.

    (I do not know if she can seek relief on the basis of state or local law.)

  • Tracheal

    Stupid false accusations of misogyny hardly help your case here. Nor does your utterly retarded reverse sexist propaganda about violence against a very very coddled ‘gender’. The language I use is actually softer than that used by WOMEN like Erin Pizzey who have faced feminist death threats first hand.

  • Tracheal

    One in five…is poisonous feminist propaganda…which is absurd on it’s face. Probing the deep dark circular cesspool of feminist propaganda is a very filthy business that no one would ever WANT to do.

  • clarification

    To clarify, this guy is talking about Leah’s case, where she got naked and into her ex-boyfriends’ bed, as far as I know, then she had sex without any indication that she didn’t want to. And then she regretted the incident and wants to claim rape. He’s not talking about your personal case. Hope this helps.

  • clarification

    Exactly. The one-in-five women study is a lie. It’s one in five women who clicked on an ad for sexually abused women. Basically, one in five women who are interested on answering a sexual assault poll have been sexually assaulted. No shit.

  • clarification

    I’ve no idea what you were trying to say.

  • clarification

    They only decided to “call him guilty” specifically BECAUSE the punishment is not high. If the punishment was expulsion, they would have NEVER found him guilty because that is not legally allowed at all and it’s ethically and morally insane.

  • clarification

    She got naked and into the bed with her ex-bf without his consent. Who is the sexual assailant here then? She expressed obvious consent for sexual activity (perhaps not penetration but still) and he expressed no consent for her to get intimate with him. How come he’s not fighting for her expulsion?

  • clarification

    She got naked and into the bed with her ex-bf without his consent. Who is the sexual assailant here then? She expressed obvious consent for sexual activity (perhaps not penetration but still) and he expressed no consent for her to get intimate with him. How come he’s not fighting for her expulsion??

  • Malena

    Look up the trial documents. The legal arguments are in there.

  • John

    This case makes me sick. It is a slap in the face to women who have actually been raped and need the protection of the law.

    What does Leah expect here? She admits to having a consensual relationship with this guy in the past, getting drunk, taking off her clothes, and getting in bed with him. The “rape” was in the middle of the night when she didn’t say “no”, didn’t physically resist, but didn’t give a verbal “yes”, either?

    Do people really think it would be an appropriate policy to put this guy in jail? Is he really a threat to society? In future cases with no evidence, is it appropriate to assume the guy is always guilty? I just don’t understand what we are aiming for.

  • Joe Joe

    She was drunk, passed out, and had a tampon in:

    “Inside, Francis took off her wet dress, got into bed, and, she thinks, passed out. When she came to, her ex-boyfriend was on top of her and pulling her underwear to the side, she says, about to force himself inside her. Francis had a tampon in; it got pushed into her cervix, sending her to the doctor because of severe pelvic pain over the following days. ”

    That doesn’t sound like she was prepared for sex.

  • Joe Joe

    Because the young woman was not prepared for sex. She was drunk, passed out, and had a tampon in. A tampon. That doesn’t sound like she was prepared for sex.

    “Inside, Francis took off her wet dress, got into bed, and, she thinks, passed out. When she came to, her ex-boyfriend was on top of her and pulling her underwear to the side, she says, about to force himself inside her. Francis had a tampon in; it got pushed into her cervix, sending her to the doctor because of severe pelvic pain over the following days”

    From the Slate article mentioned by “theworst” (above).

    I’m sorry, but I do think the guy took advantage of her condition here.