The Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), formally known as One in Five, held Parents’ Weekend informational class sessions on Saturday. The sessions aimed to educate parents about the prevalence of sexual violence on campus in order to inspire action and raise awareness.
Group co-founder Stephanie Pham ’18 said that ASAP wanted to reach out to parents because they are a vital and influential part of the Stanford community.
“We wanted to allow parents to form their own opinions, and if they are motivated enough, they’ll act,” Pham said.
ASAP is a student group that aims to raise awareness of campus sexual assault and advocate for better policies. The class was the group’s first official event.
At the event, Pham opened the discussion with a reminder of the statistic for which ASAP originally named their group: One in five women in college is sexually assaulted each year. Pham also encouraged “desperately needed conversation” across communities on campus, parents included, to form a sustained effort to raise awareness of and to fight sexual assault.
After introductions, law professor Michele Dauber gave a presentation that began with a discussion of the current sanctioning process for students found guilty of sexual assault. She feels the sanctions are not harsh enough and that this might discourage students from reporting assaults. Low sanctions also might not deter students enough from actually committing violence, she said.
“Fewer than half of male students believe they will be punished for sexual assault,” Dauber said.
She then detailed the methodology Stanford used to conduct its campus climate survey last year and the implications of the survey’s findings. She specifically cited the statistic that 1.9 percent of Stanford students are sexually assaulted, a number Stanford has highlighted in press releases, as misleading.
In an email to The Daily after the event, Dauber explained that she wanted to speak about the climate survey with parents because parents often ask what it means for the safety of their children.
“It is very important to let them know what we do know, as well as what we don’t know, due to the issues and problems with the survey,” she said.
She explained to parents some of the factors she felt led to the statistic, including Stanford’s relatively narrow definition of sexual assault compared to other universities and methodological choices made by the University when creating the survey.
Dauber explained that Stanford’s definition of sexual assault excludes acts of sexual touching carried out by force or incapacitation, which are instead defined as misconduct. These actions are considered sexual battery under California law and are sometimes categorized as felonies. According to Dauber, two-thirds of all sexual misconduct at universities across the country fall under this category.
She then explained the differences between Stanford’s custom-made survey and the Association of American Universities (AAU) survey, which is used by most peer schools.
One benefit of the AAU survey, according to Dauber, is that it separates all data for seniors only, which better measures the prevalence of sexual violence. While Stanford separated some data by class, the 1.9 number averages together students in all years.
“Some students haven’t been here long enough to get raped yet, frankly,” Dauber said, to mixed reactions from the audience.
Dauber explained that the wording of certain questions on Stanford’s survey may have resulted in miscounted data. For example, she said, Stanford’s survey did not count instances of sexual assault when students reported they did not remember whether force was used. The survey also only counts the most serious incident per person.
“Given [the University is] aware there is an issue, it was probably the wrong the decision to go around talking about 2 percent,” she said. “It lacks humility.”
By extrapolating from the available data released by the University, Dauber showed parents why she thinks it is likely that the rate of sexual violence at Stanford is similar to those of peer schools.
Dauber also mentioned recent calls for a new climate survey, including a resolution by the ASSU Senate. But the University raised cost objections, and the graduate student council agreed, suggesting the University should instead increase prevention efforts.
“Stanford will be doing a new climate survey, in my opinion,” Dauber said. “The question is which one.”
Alexis Kallen ’18 then spoke about her efforts to make “Scary Path,” the dimly lit path that many students feel is a high-risk area, safe for students. She explained that there are about 400 students living near the path, and that many freshmen, who don’t yet know where they’re going, walk along the path to get home after a night out.
Kallen became involved with the issue as a freshman working on the ASSU cabinet. She and then-president Elizabeth Woodson ’15 approached Vice Provost Greg Boardman with a proposal for lighting the path. While Boardman supported the idea, there were roadblocks to implementation, such as the population of endangered salamanders that prevent building in the area.
“Building a path also shows we have a problem with sexual assault, and we don’t want to do that,” Kallen said sarcastically, mocking the perceived reluctance of the administration to address the issue.
After Kallen’s proposal began to gain media attention, the University began to take action. Now, Kallen and Boardman co-chair a special task force to implement the proposal.
Kallen has discussed the salamanders’ presence with the National Park Service, and she has created a plan to build an elevated boardwalk and hanging lights with no ecological disturbances.
Currently, the path is blocked off until further notice, but Kallen said she expects the project to be finished by the time she graduates in 2018.
Kallen also discussed a program that may be established at New Student Orientation in which RAs would lead freshmen on a tour of the area to show them how to get home.
“That way they would be more confident even if they are under the influence,” Kallen said.
After the presentations came audience comments and questions. Some parents expressed anger with last year’s climate survey. Others highlighted their concern for campus safety.
One father noted that he feels it is important for parents to educate their sons on how to respectfully treat their female peers. Another parent, who noted that she has two daughters, voiced her concern about alcohol use on campus and its relationship to sexual violence.
Given the number of questions and comments by parents and their reactions to the information presented, the organizers of the event felt it was a success.
“From my perspective, the event was very successful,” Dauber wrote in an email to The Daily. “We had a full house at both scheduled times, and the questions from parents were really excellent, showing that some parents, like other parts of the Stanford community, are very concerned about how the University is handling this issue.”
“The parents were extremely receptive,” Pham said. “It seemed like after listening to Professor Dauber speak and listening to student perspectives, it brought the issue home, and I think they will act upon what they heard.”
Contact Sarah Ortlip-Sommers at sortlip ‘at’ stanford.edu.