The Juneau, Alaska, district attorney will not bring charges in a sexual assault case filed by Leah Francis against another Stanford student.
District Attorney James Scott told Juneau Empire that there is insufficient evidence to prove that Francis was raped on Jan. 1 in Alaska.
Alaska law determines rape based on whether the victim says “no” verbally or does something to indicate a strong lack of consent.
“If they don’t communicate lack of consent, then we look at the circumstances to say, ‘Well, was it obvious that she wasn’t consenting?'” Scott told Juneau Empire. “In this case, we do not have sufficient evidence to overcome the fact that we would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect recklessly disregarded her lack of consent.”
However, Francis said that the focus on what she did during the assault amounts to victim blaming.
“The laws basically say to victims, ‘If you don’t act correctly while you’re being raped, then the law will not protect you,'” Francis told Palo Alto Online. “I don’t think anyone should be judging the way that someone reacts to an assault that’s so psychologically damaging.”
Kristin Swanson, an Alaskan attorney representing the male student, released a statement on his behalf maintaining his innocence and condemning Stanford’s investigation, which found him responsible for sexual assault.
Francis, a 21-year-old senior, reported the assault, which she said took place in her ex-boyfriend’s home in Alaska over winter break, on Jan. 7 to the University and filed a police report soon afterwards.
Under the Alternate Review Process, Stanford found the assailant responsible for sexual assault and suspended him for five quarters beginning summer 2014, allowing him to return for graduate school in fall 2015. Francis appealed for expulsion, and the University’s final decision was to withhold the assailant’s degree for two years, neither suspending nor expelling him.
Supporters of Francis held a rally in White Plaza on June 5 and protested outside the June 12 Faculty Senate Meeting, while raising awareness on social media with the hashtag #standwithleah.
The University has tasked a committee with improving educational efforts surrounding sexual assault and harassment as well as studying the University’s disciplinary processes for reported cases. The committee members include both student and faculty members from various departments of the Stanford community.
The University is also creating new online education programs on sexual assault for incoming students, instituting a New Student Orientation program called “Facing Reality: Cultivating a Community of Respect & Consent,” hiring an additional Title IX investigator to ensure that cases are complete within the recommended 60 days and distributing a campus climate survey next academic year to solicit student opinion on the prevalence of sexual assault and misconduct.
Contact Michelle Leung at michelle ‘dot’ leung ‘at’ saratogafalcon ‘dot’ org.