Therapy for Stanford Assault Victim
My name is Leah Francis. In 2014, when I was a senior at Stanford, I was sexually assaulted by a classmate. I reported the assault and Stanford investigated and held a hearing where it was determined that the other student committed sexual assault through use of force and under duress. However, he was not expelled. He was only given a “gap year,” and told he could return for graduate school. As a result, Stanford students held a series of protests called #StandWithLeah in 2014 and 2015.
Stanford’s hearing process took far too long, and was retraumatizing for me. During the months that the investigation dragged on, the perpetrator violated his “no contact” directive and Stanford didn’t do anything. Stanford ultimately refused to expel him, and then, Stanford refused to allow me all the appeal rights I should have had under the law to appeal that decision. As a result, I filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education (OCR) for violations of Title IX. Although I knew when I filed the complaint that I would already be graduated before the conclusion of OCR’s investigation I wanted to help make Stanford a better place for future students who experience sexual violence on campus.
This is important to me. Stanford has a Fundamental Standard that governs the conduct of all students. It says: “Students at Stanford are expected to show both within and without the university such respect for order, morality, personal honor and the rights of others as is demanded of good citizens. Failure to do this will be sufficient cause for removal from the university.”
Although my perpetrator was found to have violated this Standard, he was not removed from the university. I now believe that for me to show morality, personal honor, and respect for the rights of others and to be a good citizen, I must do my utmost to ensure that no student ever experiences the kind of lack of care, compassion, and respect that Stanford showed me and other survivors of sexual assault.
In the last 2 years, at least four more Stanford sexual assault victims have filed OCR complaints. Right now Stanford has five open complaints, which is tied for the highest number in the country. OCR has spent the last 2 years since we filed our complaints reviewing Stanford’s documents, and OCR investigators are about to come to Stanford in a few weeks to start meeting with students, faculty and staff to try to determine whether Stanford is complying with Title IX and if not, how it can help Stanford to improve.
A few weeks ago, as OCR was finally preparing to come to Stanford’s campus and interview students. Stanford offered me $60,000 to pay for much needed mental health counseling but there was a catch. I had to withdraw my open complaint with OCR. They also offered another OCR complainant a similar deal. If I didn’t agree to withdraw my complaint, Stanford refused to help me with further counseling expenses, even though Stanford found that I was assaulted.
I said no.
And I am pledging to keep my complaint open no matter how much money Stanford offers me. Stanford's strategy appears to be to dangle badly needed money for mental health services in front of survivors in exchange for secrecy. But I #wontsettleforsilence. I want to keep the door open for Stanford administration to get the guidance they need from OCR to improve how they treat sexual assault victims.
However, I still need help to pay for therapy. Since my assault, like most survivors I have suffered from the symptoms of PTSD including panic attacks, anxiety, sleeplessness, nightmares, and depression. Since my assault in 2014, my out of pocket costs for therapy have totaled an average of $5,500 per year. My goal is to pay for two more years of therapy for treatment of PTSD which will cost me $11,000. I will donate any amount of money I raise beyond $11,000 to the YWCA and AWARE. These two organizations respectively support sexual assault and domestic violence survivors at Stanford and in my hometown of Juneau, Alaska. Would you consider donating to my gofundme to help me raise $11,000 to carry the burden of keeping this complaint open and rejecting Stanford's attempt to buy the silence of the victims of sexual violence on campus?
Thank you for considering lending your support!
I'm impressed with your strength, with your courage, and with your determination to use what happened to you to help Stanford make changes for the benefit of students who enroll in years to come. I hope that the support you receive, financial and otherwise, will help you to heal from the trauma.