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A Stanford graduate student has filed a lawsuit against the school, claiming it failed to properly respond to multiple allegations of violence and sexual assault concerning another student, allowing him to prey on at least four female students during his undergraduate years.
The lawsuit also claims that, when Stanford finally found the student responsible for "serious sexual misconduct" in 2014 (three years after his first reported assault) the school failed to enforce its own campus ban on the student, referred to as "Mr. X" in the lawsuit, and that he had been seen back on campus as recently as February.
According to the lawsuit, the first known victim repeatedly reported a 2011 incident to various campus employees, during which Mr. X strangled and raped her after she began losing consciousness. But she was discouraged from filing a formal complaint, and campus officials failed to connect the dots when more of his victims came forward.
In response to rumors that Mr. X had assaulted other female students, residence hall staffers assured the first victim that they would talk to him and make it clear that physical and sexual assaults "were not okay and that he has a very serious problem with anger." Whether those talks ever actually happened is unclear. In 2014, Mr. X allegedly twisted the plaintiff's arm behind her back and told her to go kill herself after she refused him sex and became "violently angry" with another female student who refused his advances, and "threw a table at her and punched her in the face while holding a shampoo bottle, splitting her lip."
Too Little, Too Late
It wasn't until the summer of 2014 that Stanford banned Mr. X from campus, but by then he had already graduated and the school conferred him both bachelor's and master's degrees. When the plaintiff spotted him back on campus, security guards told her "there was no official record of the ban and they could neither arrest Mr. X nor remove him from campus."
The lawsuit claims Stanford violated federal anti-discrimination law by failing to investigate the sexual assault allegations and protect female students from harm. "Women will not have an equal opportunity to succeed academically until the epidemic of sexual violence on campus ends," Rebecca Peterson-Fisher, an attorney for Equal Rights Advocates who filed the complaint told the Mercury News. "Institutions like Stanford need to be held accountable for their failure to recognize the severity of these crimes."