News

Stanford provost addresses sex-assault memorial

Persis Drell: 'the sexual assault of Emily Doe ... has changed our community forever'

Stanford University Provost Persis Drell is defending the university's handling of a campus garden that was created to mark the site where former student Brock Turner sexually assaulted a young woman, with words from the survivor on a plaque that never ended up being installed.

Seeking to "correct any misimpressions that have arisen" about the process, Drell offered the university's perspective in a Wednesday post on a university blog, "Notes from the Quad."

The anonymous woman, referred to by the pseudonym Emily Doe, withdrew from talks after two separate quotes she submitted for the plaque were rejected by the university because, officials said, they could be "triggering" for survivors of sexual violence. The quotes were from her victim impact statement, which sparked global activism and legislation after she read it in court at Turner's sentencing in Palo Alto in 2016.

Her withdrawal was widely reported in local and national media, and a Stanford student advocacy group circulated a petition calling on the university to publicly apologize to Doe and immediately install the plaque with the quote she originally chose.

"Any narrative that gives the impression that Stanford does not care about sexual violence, or that we do not wish to support survivors, hinders our ability as a community to move forward to address this issue," Drell wrote. "I personally am committed to working to ensure this doesn't happen -- hence this post."

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Drell said that Stanford agreed in 2016 to create a "peaceful space for our community near the site where the sexual assault occurred" and "hoped that the garden would be a restorative place of comfort, healing, and purposeful reflection."

The university installed benches, landscaping and a fountain last fall in the area behind the Kappa Alpha fraternity house.

A representative for Doe first proposed the following quote for the plaque, according to Drell:

"You made me a victim. In newspapers my name was "unconscious intoxicated woman," ten syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am. That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All­ American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, my life was put on hold for over a year, waiting to figure out if I was worth something."

Drell said despite the excerpt's "powerful nature," she and others at Stanford felt that it wouldn't be "supportive in a healing space for survivors."

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Doe's representative then proposed a second quote: "You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today."

Drell said she and others, including sexual violence counselors, also felt this excerpt could be harmful for survivors of sexual assault. Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who has served as Doe's representative, disagreed, writing in an email Thursday that "what is 'triggering' is that the attack took place at all, not the victim's powerful words about it."

The university next proposed three alternative quotes, which Doe rejected:

"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."

I "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 okay, everything's okay, I'm right here." (This is what Doe recounted telling her sister when she picked Doe up from the hospital after the assault.)

Doe's representative then asked that the garden "make no reference" to Doe, Drell said.

Stating her commitment to preventing sexual violence on campus, Drell ended her post by "acknowledging that the sexual assault of Emily Doe at Stanford has changed our community forever."

Dauber called on Drell to apologize to Doe.

"Stanford is a great university and students are expected to engage challenging texts about upsetting events in our classes," she said. "Censorship is not the answer to difficult ideas and every student and faculty member should be worried about this kind of infringement on literary expression."

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Stanford provost addresses sex-assault memorial

Persis Drell: 'the sexual assault of Emily Doe ... has changed our community forever'

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Mar 15, 2018, 11:46 am

Stanford University Provost Persis Drell is defending the university's handling of a campus garden that was created to mark the site where former student Brock Turner sexually assaulted a young woman, with words from the survivor on a plaque that never ended up being installed.

Seeking to "correct any misimpressions that have arisen" about the process, Drell offered the university's perspective in a Wednesday post on a university blog, "Notes from the Quad."

The anonymous woman, referred to by the pseudonym Emily Doe, withdrew from talks after two separate quotes she submitted for the plaque were rejected by the university because, officials said, they could be "triggering" for survivors of sexual violence. The quotes were from her victim impact statement, which sparked global activism and legislation after she read it in court at Turner's sentencing in Palo Alto in 2016.

Her withdrawal was widely reported in local and national media, and a Stanford student advocacy group circulated a petition calling on the university to publicly apologize to Doe and immediately install the plaque with the quote she originally chose.

"Any narrative that gives the impression that Stanford does not care about sexual violence, or that we do not wish to support survivors, hinders our ability as a community to move forward to address this issue," Drell wrote. "I personally am committed to working to ensure this doesn't happen -- hence this post."

Drell said that Stanford agreed in 2016 to create a "peaceful space for our community near the site where the sexual assault occurred" and "hoped that the garden would be a restorative place of comfort, healing, and purposeful reflection."

The university installed benches, landscaping and a fountain last fall in the area behind the Kappa Alpha fraternity house.

A representative for Doe first proposed the following quote for the plaque, according to Drell:

"You made me a victim. In newspapers my name was "unconscious intoxicated woman," ten syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am. That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All­ American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, my life was put on hold for over a year, waiting to figure out if I was worth something."

Drell said despite the excerpt's "powerful nature," she and others at Stanford felt that it wouldn't be "supportive in a healing space for survivors."

Doe's representative then proposed a second quote: "You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today."

Drell said she and others, including sexual violence counselors, also felt this excerpt could be harmful for survivors of sexual assault. Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who has served as Doe's representative, disagreed, writing in an email Thursday that "what is 'triggering' is that the attack took place at all, not the victim's powerful words about it."

The university next proposed three alternative quotes, which Doe rejected:

"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."

I "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 okay, everything's okay, I'm right here." (This is what Doe recounted telling her sister when she picked Doe up from the hospital after the assault.)

Doe's representative then asked that the garden "make no reference" to Doe, Drell said.

Stating her commitment to preventing sexual violence on campus, Drell ended her post by "acknowledging that the sexual assault of Emily Doe at Stanford has changed our community forever."

Dauber called on Drell to apologize to Doe.

"Stanford is a great university and students are expected to engage challenging texts about upsetting events in our classes," she said. "Censorship is not the answer to difficult ideas and every student and faculty member should be worried about this kind of infringement on literary expression."

Comments

Anonymous
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2018 at 12:41 pm
Anonymous, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2018 at 12:41 pm
21 people like this

Still tone deaf after all these years...


student
Stanford
on Mar 15, 2018 at 1:04 pm
student, Stanford
on Mar 15, 2018 at 1:04 pm
15 people like this

I think the first quote is really great. Did Brock's lawyers force the university to reject it?


TheRealStory
Charleston Gardens
on Mar 15, 2018 at 5:13 pm
TheRealStory, Charleston Gardens
on Mar 15, 2018 at 5:13 pm
2 people like this

[Post removed.]


mam
Midtown
on Mar 16, 2018 at 11:35 am
mam, Midtown
on Mar 16, 2018 at 11:35 am
9 people like this

As a survivor of sexual abuse as a child, I found most comfort in the first of the 3 alternative quotes: "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." Others may resonate more with other quotes, but for me, it focused on the positive message I need to hear to promote healing.


Stanford Alum
Downtown North
on Mar 16, 2018 at 6:14 pm
Stanford Alum, Downtown North
on Mar 16, 2018 at 6:14 pm
13 people like this

Thank you, Stanford, and Provost Drell. Respectfully: The two initial quotes submitted are deeply problematic for other reasons. In the first, Doe is disturbed by the principle that Turner should be considered “innocent until proven guilty.” This is the basis of our legal system, and it hasn’t been an easy path to get here. Consider the alternative. (Actually, the alternative, guilty if simply accused, is exactly is what happening with recent social media *accusations* of improper behavior leading to men being fired or their careers ruined – vigilantism and rule of the mob in full swing.)

This kind of emotional outburst and rant against the legal system enshrined on a plaque really is not appropriate for a college in which sober intellectual inquiry is vaunted. It belongs more in a feminist reader of victim’s voices, or on an anonymous meme that many are happy to make viral on social media.

Of deeper importance, however: This is not the legal case to showcase the evils of sexual assault, and Stanford may have gone too far in even creating this garden because of this legal case. The case is a tragic lesson in the evils of drunkenness [portion removed.]

Do we want to live in a world where judges exercise their prerogative to compassionate sentencing or in a world where judges always give the severest sentence possible?

Where are the forums in which this kind of in-good-faith, nuanced conversations can happen, instead of these questions being shut down by activist voices who can only tolerate a black-and-white way of looking at things?

I wish deep healing for both Doe and Turner from this terrible situation. I’ve been dreading the plaque decision, and it’s good to hear good sense at Stanford prevailing.


Resa Brown
Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2018 at 7:45 pm
Resa Brown, Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2018 at 7:45 pm
4 people like this

[Post removed]


VICTIM BLAMING IS NOT OK
Fairmeadow
on Mar 16, 2018 at 10:50 pm
VICTIM BLAMING IS NOT OK, Fairmeadow
on Mar 16, 2018 at 10:50 pm
3 people like this

[Post removed.]


Carol
College Terrace
on Mar 17, 2018 at 12:12 am
Carol, College Terrace
on Mar 17, 2018 at 12:12 am
11 people like this

As a Stanford alum and parent of Stanford students, I find the provost's comments deeply disturbing and an all-too-common indication of how Stanford DOES NOT GET IT when it comes to sexual assault. @Stanford - you do not get to decide what is and is not healing for the community. Sexual assault of a terrible nature occurred at Stanford and all we have heard from Stanford is how the media gets it wrong, or how nobody understands Stanford's delicate position, or how Stanford has no comment. @Stanford, listen up - you are losing your students and your alums' respect. You do not understand the gravity of what is at stake, Stanford. Take a stand in support of your students, Stanford - you used to be a pillar of strength when I was a student (in the days when Stanford cared more about its students than about optics), and now you are a backpedaling, defensive nothing in the face of sexual assault.


Stanford Alum
Downtown North
on Mar 17, 2018 at 9:35 am
Stanford Alum, Downtown North
on Mar 17, 2018 at 9:35 am
5 people like this

@Carol, it is certainly Stanford’s decision what to install on a plaque. Activists can lobby them, but in this case they chose the correct road. My respect for Stanford is somewhat strengthened (though the fact that a bunch of students and staff have to decide sexual assault cases there - on explicitly way less than legal standards - still sends chills through me).

An anonymously written emotional outburst, no matter how deeply felt, which attacks a basis of our legal system (see my prev. post) and casts doubt on sexual victims ever being able to recover (“I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt”) - it is certainly debatable whether that gives encouragement to or imparts a sense of hopelessness to survivors. (Female helplessness, actually, is one theme that has been observed to have come from the MeToo campaign - the perception that females are essentially powerless and cannot help themselves other than through anonymous twitter rants and accusations. Is this how we want to bring up our girls?)

The second quote, “you took away my worth… until today” is just as dark and hopeless, and its last two words ring false in the face of the first quote. (Where was that glimmer of hope in the first rant?)

[Portion removed.]

What about this question: Turner is sentenced to a life of being branded as a sex offender. Publicly. Not hidden under any pseudonym. He went through the legal system of the United States, and came out branded like this for life. Sorry, but I’m allowed to have compassion for him as well, in addition to Doe. This move to absolutely, 100% demonize someone who went through the legal system is coming from some place that is beyond the particular circumstance at hand. It is not fair. In the US we judge cases based on that circumstance only, not on the "sins of our ancestors" (in this case, the feminist stereotype of "white men").

Or how about a matching plaque with a statement of Turner's that drunkenness is a problem on campuses? That's not controversial at all, and drunkenness is certainly a huge factor in this case.


ferdinand
Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2018 at 10:19 am
ferdinand, Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2018 at 10:19 am
6 people like this

There are many strong emotions on both sides of this issue, but it would be refreshing to see more thankfulness rather than divisiveness, particularly by the activists. It is generous that Stanford agreed to and supported this lovely space. And if Stanford agreed to create a "peaceful space for our community" and "hoped that the garden would be a restorative place of comfort, healing, and purposeful reflection" then they have fulfilled their agreement.

"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."

What a powerful message to have inscribed for all to consider and absorb!


VICTIM BLAMING IS NOT OK
Fairmeadow
on Mar 17, 2018 at 10:23 am
VICTIM BLAMING IS NOT OK, Fairmeadow
on Mar 17, 2018 at 10:23 am
5 people like this

[Post removed.]


Stanford Alum
Downtown North
on Mar 17, 2018 at 12:07 pm
Stanford Alum, Downtown North
on Mar 17, 2018 at 12:07 pm
6 people like this

@ferdinand - thank you for your thoughtful contribution to this discussion and your non-divisive attitude. We all need this.

[Portion removed.] Reasonable people can and do differ in what they see as the main lesson from a particular situation. That is a relevant topic to discuss in the comments section of this article. [Portion removed.]

I do not have a right to express my opinion on this particular online forum, which exists by the grace of the PA Weekly and *under their terms*. Thus, I accept the moderator’s editing (though I wish I knew why some of my post was edited). Doe does not have a right to have her anonymous rant enshrined on a plaque at Stanford. That Prof. Dauber calls this “censorship” on the part of Stanford (last paragraph) is mind-boggling. [Portion removed.]


STANFORD ALUM IS A VICTIM BLAMER
Evergreen Park
on Mar 17, 2018 at 4:58 pm
STANFORD ALUM IS A VICTIM BLAMER, Evergreen Park
on Mar 17, 2018 at 4:58 pm
1 person likes this

[Post removed.]


Protect victims not rapists and colleges
Community Center
on Mar 17, 2018 at 8:18 pm
Protect victims not rapists and colleges, Community Center
on Mar 17, 2018 at 8:18 pm
5 people like this

[Post removed.]


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