Two women claim Stanford tried to pay them to withdraw sexual assault complaints

Stanford University is already infamous for Brock Turner’s sexual assault of a female student behind a dumpster on the California campus, and now students allege the school tried to silence their complaints about how the administration handles sexual assault. BuzzFeed reports that two women claim Stanford tried to pay them to withdraw Title IX complaints they filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). One of the women, Leah Francis, says the school offered her $60,000 to pay for therapy, while the second unnamed woman didn’t disclose how much cash she was offered. Both said they refused the alleged settlements.

“Stanford should stop trying to isolate and bully survivors of sexual assault into dropping their complaints by dangling much-needed money for health care in front of them,” Francis told BuzzFeed’s Tyler Kingkade. Stanford spokeswoman Lisa Lapin told BuzzFeed it would be “unethical” to disclose information about settlement discussions, but did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Frisky.

There are four ongoing Title IX investigations at Stanford right now, three opened in 2015 and one in 2016. The investigation linked to Francis involves her 2014 sexual assault and what she felt wasn’t a sufficient punishment for her attacker. The school found the man “responsible” for sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and violating the school’s Fundamental Standard, but rather than being expelled, he was suspended for five quarters — scheduled to begin after he graduated.

Students walk along covered footpath at Stanford University
CREDIT: gregobagel/iStock

Francis claims the school originally offered her $95,000 in 2015, and then $60,000 in October, but refused to agree to sexual assault policy reforms as part of a settlement deal. Because of this, she told BuzzFeed she felt the federal investigation was the “last hope” for something to change on the campus.

The second anonymous woman also alleging Stanford offered her money to withdraw her complaint to the federal government told BuzzFeed News:

“The only reason I filed in the first place was so that this would never happen to another girl at Stanford. All I care about Stanford doing is policy reform to better serve victims of gender-based violence. I do not have faith they are going to do that themselves.”

It has not been confirmed whether or not the other two women who have filed Title IX complaints against the school were offered similar settlements. However, even if the women had accepted the alleged settlements and retracted their complaints, that wouldn’t necessarily mean the OCR would stop the investigations.

A total of 217 U.S. colleges are currently being investigated by the feds for how they handle sexual assault allegations, so this certainly isn’t exclusive to Stanford. Nevertheless, publicity around the problems at Stanford continues to shine a spotlight on the pervasive issue of sexual assault on college campuses.