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“I’m surprised there was not more of a backlash”: The inside story of putting rape culture on the ballot in Santa Clara

By Sarah Lacy , written on January 17, 2018

From The Gender Wars Desk

One of our most popular podcasts last year was with Michele Dauber, the Stanford Law Professor and head of the Committee to Recall Judge Persky, the judge in the Brock Turner case who made national headlines for giving the Stanford athlete a lenient sentence.

Dauber has fought for victims of domestic violence and campus assault her entire career, and anyone else in that fight knows how lonely and frustrating it can be. But Dauber-- and her team-- scored a major victory in that fight last week when they turned in nearly 100,000 signatures to put Judge Persky on the June ballot.

Thanks to Judge Persky’s track record of lenient sentences for athletes and upper-class defendants of sex crimes, this was a campaign that Dauber was able to crystalize around one issue: A ballot referendum against rape culture.

We asked Dauber to come back on our podcast to talk about the journey, the backlash, and her advice for other women who are pissed off enough that they launch a multi-year, $1 million-dollar-plus political campaign.

Her advice for women broadly is to “get in the game”-- whether that means running for something or merely donating to a campaign or a candidate. Giving money gives you power in American politics, she argues. And roughly 70% of the money given to political campaigns comes from men. Women’s issues will not be front and center until that changes, she argues.

We also talk about the toll of calling out a Silicon Valley institution as venerable and beloved as Stanford. Dauber has been clear that Stanford isn’t doing enough to change its culture of sexual assault-- not even as much as some of its peer schools. “It’s not healthy for Stanford or Silicon Valley to have this unquestioning loyalty,” she says.