The Numbers Behind Stanford University’s Sexual Assault Problem

Stanford University (Stanford)

Stanford University (Stanford)

Last week, Stanford University swimmer Brock Allen Turner was charged with raping an intoxicated and unconscious woman in January. Allen was discovered by two men, who then chased after him. The men tackled and held Allen to prevent him from escaping, while a third man called the police.

Since then, Allen has “voluntarily withdrawn” from the university (more likely, it was either that or face expulsion), and won’t be allowed to re-enroll. His profile has also been removed from the nationally-ranked swim team’s website. Stanford will also conduct its own investigation of the crime.

This is notable for a few reasons. Rapes on college campuses have made headlines recently, notably the “Rolling Stone” UVA article, and subsequent fraternity scandal. But this is the first time we’ve recently seen a school take a hard line against rape. The university made a swift and decisive action, leaving no room for public outcry.

Specifically for Stanford, this is a pretty bold move. According to the “SF Gate,” the school has been one of the schools called out for their sexual assault policies (as in, they’re not stringent enough). Stanford Law professor Michele Landis Dauber prepared a report on sexual assaults at the school, and found the following:

Between 1997 and 2009, just four of 175 reported sexual assaults were formally adjudicated at Stanford, with two of the alleged attackers held responsible.

Doing the math, only 2.29% of reported sexual assaults were tried over a period of 12 years. (And, with what we know about the reporting of sexual assaults, it’s probable that the sheer number of them that occurred was much higher.) The alleged attackers were only held responsible 50% of the time. Pretty shameful.

Dauber noted that the numbers have improved since the report: The university has been “more welcoming” to victims and followed through on investigations (which could mean following through on more investigations, and/or following through more closely). But of course, there’s always room for improvement.

Let’s hope that Stanford’s actions incite other colleges to make the right decisions when, not if, they’re faced with similar situations.

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