Stanford employee allegedly lied about being sexually assaulted twice

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A Stanford University employee was arrested Wednesday after allegedly lying about being raped on campus twice last year. 

The 25-year-old employee was charged by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office with two felony counts of perjury and two misdemeanor counts of persuading someone to give false testimony. The DA’s office said in a news release that evidence from the investigation reveals that she made up the accusations because she was angry at a co-worker.

Jennifer Gries made her first allegation on Aug. 9, 2022, when she told a nurse at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center that she was raped by a “late 20s, black male” while she was going to her car at Stanford’s Wilbur parking garage, the county’s DA’s office said. 

In response, Stanford University issued a campuswide alert because officials believed there was a possibility of a “continuing threat to the community,” the university recalled in a Wednesday statement.

Then, on Oct. 7, Gries reported another rape, alleging that when she was coming back to her office from lunch, a Black man in his late 20s dragged her to a basement storage closet and raped her, the DA’s office said.

In both instances, Gries reported the rape to hospital nurses, who had to notify law enforcement, the DA’s office said.

The DA’s office found that the lab results from Gries’ rape examination kits were inconsistent with her stories, and the university’s Department of Public Safety continued to investigate the incidents.

That investigation found that Gries had recently filed a harassment complaint against a co-worker who fit her description of the assailant. 

The DA’s office said Gries told an acquaintance about this person, named him and said she became pregnant with his twins after he sexually assaulted her. Gries said she had a miscarriage, but the university’s investigation found that she was not pregnant. The DA’s office said Gries’ co-worker is “the actual victim in this case.”

Gries also allegedly applied twice to receive federal funding from the California Victim Compensation Board, the DA’s office said. The perjury charges stem from her communication with the board.

University officials condemned the allegedly false reports and said Gries is currently on a leave of absence.

“These false reports are damaging, both for true survivors of sexual assault and for the members of our community who experienced fear and alarm from the reports,” officials said in a statement. “We also want to emphasize that both false reports and outcomes such as this one are extremely rare in sexual assault cases.”

The reported rapes prompted mass protests on campus. The Mercury News previously reported that hundreds of students marched through campus with signs, including ones saying “Stanford protects rapists.”

Sofia Scarlat, a protest organizer, Stanford student and member of student advocacy group Sexual Violence Free Stanford, told SFGATE she believes the university needs to improve its process for supporting survivors and that she’s worried the Gries incident will only make that more difficult.

“I am concerned about how this situation will motivate or at least justify a lack of action from the school in terms of creating that systemic change,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m worried about people hiding behind rare stunts and false claims in order to dismiss other survivors.”

The latest data from a 2021-22 Title IX and sexual harassment survey at Stanford shows that there were 214 reported incidents of “prohibited conduct,” resulting in seven employee terminations and one student expulsion. Additionally, according to a 2019 university survey, about 40% of female students in their fourth year experienced nonconsensual sexual contact during their undergraduate years. The survey also revealed that more than 70% of female students don’t believe the university would conduct a fair investigation of sexual misconduct. 

Both university officials and county DA Jeff Rosen said false sexual misconduct claims are “rare” and “destructive.” 

“Our hearts go out to the falsely accused. Our hearts go out to students who had to look over their shoulders on their way to class. Our hearts go out to legitimate sexual assault victims who wonder if they will be believed,” Rosen said in the Wednesday statement. 

Gries will be arraigned at a date yet to be announced at the Hall of Justice in San Jose and could face incarceration.

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