Title IX

This Stanford Alum Says She Was Raped 8 Years Ago, Demands a Title IX Investigation

"Time is an issue, and I feel like they were just very much dragging their feet."


King of Hearts / Wikimedia Commons

A woman is furious that Stanford University won't investigate the sexual assault allegation she filed in January. Administrators have a pretty good reason not to look into the matter, though: the incident happened eight years ago, and both the accuser and the accused have long since graduated.

Nevertheless, the woman, Ellery Dake—now an independent researcher at Harvard University—believes Stanford's Title IX office, which handles sexual misconduct cases, is "disorganized" and "impotent" because it will not investigate her accusation. When I say that activists are constantly trying to expand the scope of Title IX—the federal statute at the heart of so many due process and free speech violations on campuses—this is the sort of thing to which I refer.

At least one legal mind at Stanford has taken Dake's side against the university. Law Professor Michelle Dauber, best known for spearheading the effort to recall Judge Aaron Persky for not imposing a harsher sentence on Brock Turner, told The Stanford Daily that she believes the university's sexual misconduct policy claims jurisdiction over alumni as well as students, faculty, and current employees.

According to The Daily's interview with Dake, she was inspired by the #MeToo movement to write letters to several former members of Stanford's football team, "six of whom she said verbally degraded her and one of whom allegedly raped her":

Dake says that the Stanford football player who raped her did so in the spring of 2010, on a night when she was too drunk to consent to sex.

"I woke up naked in my roommate's bed in a puddle of my own urine, vaginally sore and confused after a night of drinking," Dake told The Daily. "The soreness in my vagina persisted for almost a week. I was devastated."

After realizing that she had had sex and could not remember any of it, Dake said, she told several of her friends, as well as a friend of her alleged rapist, that she'd been raped. She also told the man himself.

"He had clear recollections of the evening's events and kept asking if I 'remembered' that night," Dake said. "I told him, unequivocally, that I did not, each time he asked."

The alleged assault, combined with sexual humiliation she says she had been subjected to by other football players, motivated her to send the letters.

"I was really struggling with a lot of issues related to how the football team treated me," Dake said.

In addition to the letters, Dake tried to submit a sexual assault report on Callisto, Stanford's online platform for handling such things. But lacking a valid Stanford email address, she couldn't complete the report. Stanford's Title IX office didn't respond to emails, so she visited in person:

After two days of attempting unsuccessfully to get in touch with the Title IX Office through their publicly-listed email address and phone number, Dake decided to make a visit in person. She said that Title IX's delayed response to her reports had left her feeling concerned and frustrated.

"Imagine, for example, if there was evidence that needed to be collected or people that needed to be spoken to promptly in an investigation like this," Dake said. "Time is an issue, and I feel like they were just very much dragging their feet."

That's a pretty bold thing to say, given that Dake had waited eight years to speak up about what allegedly happened to her. If there's any evidence that needed to be collected promptly, another two days isn't going to matter at this point. But Dake was now ready to pursue her case with zealous urgency, no matter what the university said. Finally, Miranda Tuttle, Stanford's Title IX Outreach and Student Resources Manager, told her they might be able to ban her rapist from alumni events. Dake came away from the meeting convinced that she should begin investigating her own case, compiling witness statements from people who might have recalled what happened to her, even though Stanford's Title IX policy specifically discourages sexual assault victims from doing so.

A month later, Title IX officials informed Dake that they would not continue the investigation because "neither you nor [he] are current Stanford students, and [he] has no ongoing connection to Stanford other than being an alumnus." Dake, who had apparently expected based on her initial conversation with the Title IX office that her alleged rapist would indeed be banned from alumni events, felt betrayed.

"They assured me my case had concrete potential disciplinary outcomes," Dake told The Daily. "What in the world suddenly took place that negated this jurisdiction they spoke of?"

Here's an idea: perhaps administrators greeted Dake's story with automatic belief—indeed, an administrator reportedly told her she "respects her courage"—but then realized there was simply no way to bring a Title IX case eight years after the fact, when neither party was remotely involved with the university. There is good reason to exercise restraint here, after all. Relevant witnesses' recollections of the events might no longer be accurate—including Dake's.

Many Title IX offices do a bad enough job investigating misconduct when relatively little time has passed. The idea that a bunch of university bureaucrats should investigate an eight-year-old assault that no one reported at the time is simply absurd. Dake has the right to pursue justice, but she should follow the procedures available to all people: contact the police. She still has time—the statute of limitations for rape in California was 10 years at the time of alleged crime.