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Santa Clara County DA, universities host symposium on campus sexual assault

Guest speakers, panel discussions will be streamed live on Friday

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office has teamed up with eight local colleges and universities, including Stanford University, to host an all-day symposium dedicated to the topic of campus sexual violence this Friday, Nov. 18 at Santa Clara University.

The conference, dubbed "One Voice: Community United Against Sexual Assault" is "intended to raise national awareness about campus sexual assaults and to share solutions about how to protect students and survivors," an event description reads.

"At this gathering and as a community, we are determined to speak out against campus sexual assault with one strong voice," District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. "We will make campuses even safer and sex assaults even fewer. We will hold rapists accountable and serve survivors with the utmost dignity and care."

Participating colleges and universities include Santa Clara, Stanford, De Anza College, San Jose State University, San Jose City College, Mission College Santa Clara, West Valley College and Gavilan College.

In a statement, Stanford's new president Marc Tessier-Lavigne called campus sexual assault "unacceptable" and a "wrenching issue."

"We welcome the county partnership in tackling sexual violence and assuring the safety of our students," he said.

Stanford spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said "quite a few people from Stanford’s relevant offices" will attend the conference.

The symposium has been in the works since this spring, when the district attorney's office invited top leadership and police chiefs from all Santa Clara County colleges and universities to discuss their responses to campus sexual assault and develop a potential agenda for the symposium.

Terry Harman, assistant district attorney for the county, told the Weekly in May that her office hoped to address what they saw as "an institutional bias to keep assaults quiet."

"From our point of view, every campus, every dorm room is in Santa Clara County and that rape should not be treated differently than a rape that occurs a mile away off campus," she said. "Different colleges and universities have different action plans when they get a complaint and our ultimate goal would be to get a protocol or an understanding between the DA's office and those colleges and universities regarding how cases are handled."

The event will feature guest speakers and panel discussions on rape culture, campus safety measures and the various legal routes survivors of sexual assault can pursue.

Guest speakers on Friday will include Harvard Law School sexual-assault survivor Kamilah Willingham, author-activist Kevin Powell, Congresswoman Jackie Speier and former CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield.

Rosen will give welcoming remarks and oversee a joint signing of a memorandum of understanding "aimed at fostering close cooperation between schools and public safety agencies," a press release states.

Shortly after, excerpts of the now-famous letter written by Emily Doe, the anonymous young woman who former Stanford student Brock Turner sexually assaulted outside a fraternity party last year, will be read by actress Sharon Stone.

Harman and Matthew Duncan, associate dean for student life and deputy Title IX officer at Santa Clara University, will talk about best practices for campus safety measures on a panel in the afternoon.

Banfield, along with Luis Ramos, who supervisors the DA's sexual-assault unit, and Belinda Guthrie, Santa Clara University's Title IX coordinator, will analyze a hypothetical case to "showcase the different options a victim of sexual assault may pursue and untangle the confusion that is often associated with investigations involving campus sexual assault," an event description reads.

Speier, who has proposed legislation to strengthen enforcement and increase transparency around college sexual assault, will give closing remarks.

The event is invitation-only, but will be live streamed online at scu.edu.

The symposium will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Santa Clara University's Locatelli Student Activity Center.

For more information, go to scu.edu/onevoice.

The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify archive of ongoing coverage of the Brock Turner case as well as sexual-assault issues at Stanford University. To view them, go to storify.com/paloaltoweekly.

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