University expands anti-sexual violence campaign

Sept. 30, 2011, 3:04 a.m.

Stanford has devoted increasing attention to its campaign addressing sexual violence on campus since the formation of the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse (SARA) Education & Response last June.

In June, the University appointed Angela Exson as the new Assistant Dean of SARA.

University expands anti-sexual violence campaign
Angela Exson, Assistant Dean of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse. (MEHMET INONU/The Stanford Daily)

“Hiring Angela Exson institutionalizes Stanford’s commitment to ending violence against women,” said Nicole Baran ’00, founder and director of the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness, which seeks to change campus culture by addressing the underlying causes of sexual assault and relationship abuse.

“SARA will coordinate the response to incidents of sexual violence and relationship abuse while conducting outreach to raise awareness about the dynamics of the issues and the detrimental impact that they incur,” Exson wrote in an email to The Daily.

“The first year is about establishing protocol — there is policy for dealing with sexual assault policy but no protocol, and with relationship abuse, we have protocols but we don’t have policy in place,” Exson said in a follow-up interview.

“There will be an evaluation process to see what’s working and how we engage with the campus and the community at large” once new protocols and policies have been reviewed, established and publicized, Exson added.

SARA plans to work with the YWCA, an organization which, according to its website, is dedicated to empowering women and eliminating racism, in addition to Residential Education (ResEd) and Cousenseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and campus police. The group will also work collaboratively with the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness.

Since 2006, the center has managed the Stanford University Partnership to End Violence Against Women. The center promotes awareness through training sessions for student staff, fraternities and sororities, an eight-hour education program for students and through a feminist studies course titled “Violence Against Women: Theory, Issues and Prevention,” now in its fifth year.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women has funded the Center through two separate grants over the last five years and is currently considering Stanford’s application for another three-year grant. The Department of Justice will announce the results in October.

An Underreported Crime

The number of reported “forcible sexual offenses” doubled to 21 in 2010 from 10 the previous year, according to the Department of Public Safety’s 2011 Annual Security and Fire Safety report released to the Stanford community Sept. 27. The report also saw the number of reported forcible rapes triple to 13 in 2010, from four reports the previous year.

“An increase in reports doesn’t necessarily indicate an increase in incidences,” Exson said when asked to comment on the increase, adding that the rate of reports is related to the nature of administrative and student responses toward sexual violence on campus.

Sexual assault and relationship abuse are two of the most underreported violent crimes nationwide.

According to a 2008 California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) Report, one in four college women were victims of rape or attempted rape while in school. Between 2000 and 2009, there were 169 reported cases of sexual violence at Stanford, the report said.

“Because only 10 percent of sexual assault cases are reported, often due to fear of judgment, victim blaming or retaliation, many more students are being assaulted without access to support and resources,” Baran said.

“There is an increase in reports if people are aware of the options that exist and feel empowered enough to make that choice,” Exson said. “Whether people report, go to Judicial Affairs, or not, SARA wants to get services and resources out so students can feel supported emotionally.”

“Sometimes students don’t report for very personal reasons,” Exson added. “Students can consult me on the options, rights and resources that are available to assist them. The goal is to respect and honor the survivor’s agenda to the fullest extent possible, while maintaining the safety of the community in a way that upholds the standards of the University and any applicable legislative mandates.”

Exson stated that one of the most effective ways to reduce sexual violence and increase relationship abuse awareness is “to challenge and critique the negative societal messages [we] receive about relationships, sex and the importance of consent.”

Students have responded to the issue of sexual violence on campus through a number of initiatives. Seventy students have interned with the Partnership to End Violence Against Women since its founding. In addition, last spring, students initiated the first Survivors Group for victims of sexual violence on campus.

“The group was very well-attended,” wrote Viviana Arcia ’13, one of the student initiators of the group and president of the Women’s Coalition, in an email to The Daily. “Because of the positive response we received from students and many administrators, we were able to lobby CAPS to officially support the group this coming school year, particularly in terms of providing a trained counselor.”

Arcia said the Survivors Group will work closely with Dean Exson to ensure that the University  provides the necessary resources for victims of sexual violence.

“Sexual and domestic violence are community issues,” Arcia said. “Sexual assault would decrease if the student community as a whole were able to understand that no one can avoid sexual assault, that only the perpetrator is responsible for sexual assault or relationship abuse and that victim-blaming will not deter these crimes from being committed.”

The Survivors Group held its first weekly meeting Sept. 27.


Kristian Davis Bailey is a junior studying Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity. A full time journalist/writer and occasional student, he's served as an Opinion section editor, News writer and desk editor for The Daily, is a community liaison for Stanford STATIC, the campus' progressive blog and journal, and maintains his own website, 'With a K.' He's interested in how the press perpetuates systems of oppression and seeks to use journalism as a tool for dismantling such systems.

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