“Stanford wasn't the villain in the case, but it can most definitely be a hero."
These are the words of Stephanie Pham, one of the Stanford undergraduates who drafted a petition entitled "Letter to Stanford University in Support of Survivor of Brock Turner case."
The petition already has over 60,000 supporters and hopes to reach a goal of 75,000 (which it no doubt will).
Unless you have been living in a nuclear fallout bunker for the past week, you know of the tragic and infuriating case of Brock Turner, a Stanford freshman who was found raping an unconscious unidentified victim behind a dumpster on Jan 17, 2015.
He was found guilty of three felony counts of sexual assault and, although facing a maximum sentence of 14 years, was given an extremely light sentence of only six months by a lenient judge.
The school also expelled Brock Turner and implemented a permanent ban from him setting foot on campus. This, as the school reminds us in its statement, is the harshest form of disciplinary action it can take.
But, Stanford has a bad reputation for being light on perpetrators of sexual assault. In 2014 (only one year before Brock's attack), for example, a student who had sexually assaulted senior Leah Francis was simply asked to take a "gap year," and only after she had already graduated.
This time around, however, it appears the school basically did the right thing (of course, this case was also easier for the university, as it could hand it off to the police).
The petition does not blame Stanford for the attack, but demands an apology since it happened on campus, as well as that it implement certain counseling and preventative measures regarding sexual assault and misconduct on campus.
Here are the petition's exact demands:
1. Immediately and publicly apologize to the survivor based on the fact that the attack happened on Stanford's campus and express support for her bravery and suffering. 2. Publicly offer accommodations including counseling and other supportive services to the survivor. 3. Increase the amount of resources allocated for sexual assault prevention, adopt evidence-based prevention programs, and introduce new university requirements on sexual assault education that students must complete during their time at Stanford. 4. Increase its counseling resources for all survivors on campus and address the longstanding issues with CAPS so that students who are suffering from sexual assault have the help that they need. 5. Administer a national, uniform climate survey like that developed by the AAU and in use in our peer schools which asks about the incidence of sexual violence occurring in fraternities.
Now, if you have no idea what this “uniform climate survey” developed by AAU is (because I definitely didn't), it's essentially a multi-university survey performed by the Association of American Universities, whose goal is, as it put it, this:
The survey was designed to assess the incidence, prevalence and characteristics of incidents of sexual assault and misconduct. It also assessed the overall climate of the campus with respect to perceptions of risk, knowledge of resources available to victims.
The data gathered by these surveys of students would then be used to provide institutions with the information they need to “inform policies to prevent and respond to sexual assault and misconduct.”
The findings of the AAU uniform climate survey are extremely unsettling, exposing just how pervasive sexual assault is on campus and how badly our institutions of higher learning are reckoning with them.
Here are a few of AAU's key findings, as listed on its website:
• Overall, 11.7 percent of student respondents across 27 universities reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation since they enrolled at their university. • The incidence of sexual assault and sexual misconduct due to physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation among female undergraduate student respondents was 23.1 percent, including 10.8 percent who experienced penetration. • Overall rates of reporting to campus officials and law enforcement or others were low, ranging from five percent to 28 percent.
Basically, what this petition and the AAU survey are asking for is exceedingly simple: schools to take sexual assault seriously. Because it is an epidemic.
Listen, if 23 percent of undergraduate male students reported that they had been smashed in the face with a bat swung full force at some point during their time at school, you can bet your ass that colleges all over the country would be doing absolutely fucking everything they could to stop male students getting attacked with bats all the time, as well as helping those who had been hit in the face with bats deal with their injuries.
They would not be just brushing the bat attacks under the rug, they would not be refusing to take the bat victims seriously, and they would not simply be giving out the occasional gap year suspension to the bat wielder after their permanently injured victim had gone ahead and graduated.
Citations: Letter to Stanford University in Support of Survivor of Brock Turner case. (Change.org), Stanford Has A Trust Problem When It Comes To Sexual Assault (Huffington Post), Stanford Punishes Rapist With Forced 'Gap Year,' As Students Demand Tougher Sanctions (Huffington Post), AAU CAMPUS SURVEY ON SEXUAL ASSAULT AND SEXUAL MISCONDUCT (AAU)