Stanford Won’t Mark Site of Sexual Assault With Plaque
Posted February 6, 2018 6:12 p.m. EST
The victim in an infamous 2015 sexual assault case at Stanford University is no longer participating in a plan to create a plaque marking the site where she was attacked after the school dismissed her suggested wording for the engraving, a law professor there said on Monday.
“I found the rejection shocking,” the professor, Michele Landis Dauber, wrote in an email. She is a family friend of the victim, known in court by the pseudonym Emily Doe.
Instead of Doe’s selections, which have not been revealed by either side in the dispute, the university suggested alternatives for the inscription, including the phrase “I’m OK, everything’s OK,” from her court statement, a passage that had been taken out of context, Dauber said.
A spokeswoman for Stanford, Lisa Lapin, said in an email that Doe’s suggested excerpts from the statement “were not consistent with a contemplative space and the intention of a place where members of our community could seek solace.”
Lapin added that sexual assault counselors employed by Stanford “advised the university that one of the quotes proposed by Emily Doe’s lawyer, that the university was seriously considering, could actually be triggering to survivors of sexual violence.”
The whole conversation about the plaque took place months ago, she said, and the university was bound by a confidentiality agreement.
Doe has remained an invisible presence throughout the public debate over the plaque, which ignited in recent weeks after Dauber spoke to news organizations. Doe could not be reached for comment, and has not spoken about it to other news outlets. Her lawyer did not respond to messages Tuesday.
Dauber said that, with Doe’s support, she proposed placing a plaque at the site of the assault and that the university agreed to do so in September 2016.
Doe’s lawyer, Dauber and university officials discussed the potential engraving, Lapin said, but they could not agree on which quotation to use from Doe’s statement.
It has been three years since Doe was sexually assaulted outside near a garbage collection structure by Brock Turner, a Stanford swimmer, on the school’s campus in January 2015.
Turner was found guilty of three felony counts of sexual assault and served jail time for three months of his six-month sentence. He was released in September 2016. The sentence, far short of the maximum 14 years, spurred protests and calls for the judge in the case to be recalled. Dauber, the chairwoman of a committee to recall the judge, has been central to that effort.
Doe provided Stanford with a quotation from her 7,000-word victim impact statement, which was shared by millions of people online after it was posted in June 2016. After the school refused that quotation, it also refused her second choice, Dauber said.
“In my opinion, the second quote that Emily provided to Stanford met all their criteria,” Dauber said. “It was not graphic in any way and emphasized the importance of using her own voice.”
Dauber said the quotation had been published in widespread news reports “and had come in some ways to be emblematic of the entire victim impact statement.”
Some Stanford students are gathering signatures for a petition asking the university to install the plaque with Doe’s preferred quotation.
Last fall, the Dumpster area outside the Kappa Alpha fraternity house, near where Doe was assaulted, was replaced with a garden, two benches and a fountain.
Dauber proposed the marker in part to remind students that “these events are happening just steps from the back door of their residence,” she said. “It reminds them that two students intervened but that many didn’t even notice, perhaps prompting them to be more aware of what is happening around them.”
Two Stanford graduate students, who were bicycling, saw the assault, according to court records. Turner fled. They tackled him and held him until the police arrived, court documents said.
Doe was unconscious at the time, she said in court, and said she learned what happened from news reports after waking up in the hospital.
In court, Doe described her anguish in the widely shared statement.
Stanford proposed three alternate quotations from Doe’s statement that were “consistent with the purpose of the garden,” Lapin said.
— "You are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you."
— "On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought every day for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you."
— "I’m right here, I’m OK, everything’s OK, I’m right here."
But, Lapin said, “Emily Doe’s lawyer did not accept any of the quotes proposed by the university, did not state a reason, and informed us that Emily Doe is no longer interested in a plaque.”
As a back-and-forth ensued over the plaque last fall, Turner’s lawyer was making plans to file an appeal. In December, his lawyer filed a 172-page brief arguing that Turner did not get a fair trial.
Concerns about Turner’s sentence led to a grass-roots effort to remove the judge, Aaron Persky of Santa Clara County. Last month the county registrar announced that a petition to remove the judge had qualified for the June ballot, after drawing more than 94,000 signatures. The county Board of Supervisors was expected to decide soon whether to put the recall on the ballot.