According to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday, two female students, Sara Weckhorst and Tessa Farmer, are accusing Kansas State University of refusing to investigate their rapes and other sexual assaults carried out at off-campus fraternity houses. Both women said they were raped at two different fraternity houses in 2014 and 2015. They also say they fear for their lives because the men who raped them are still walking freely around campus.
As ABC News reports, the civil rights lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Kansas, stipulated that the acts of the university had put the lives of students in danger and also contravened federal law by creating an intimidating learning environment for the victims. The case was the second such case in Kansas two days — on Tuesday, a member of the rowing team from the University of Kansas had also filed a suit after being sexually assaulted by a football player.
Carl Simon, lawyer for both women, said their cases were under scrutiny by the United States Department of Education. He explained that the university violated Title IX of the civil rights statute, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender and a refusal to respond to complaints about rape. Simon is seeking monetary compensation for his clients, and an apex directive that will coerce the university to investigate their rape claims.
Cindy Hollingsworth, spokesperson for Kansas State, in a statement responded to questions by saying, “Kansas State University does not discuss litigation matters in the media, nor we do we publicly discuss individual reports of discrimination, including sexual violence.”
— Chicago Council Imm (@MidwestImm) April 21, 2016
In 2014, the United States Department of Education instructed all universities involved to investigate alleged rape cases off-campus, particularly emanating those from fraternity houses. In a released document, the Department had said that any misconduct that occurred off campus was not meant to absolve the school from its duty to investigate complaints. Kansas State recognizes 25 fraternities and all of them are off-campus.
Lawyer Adele P. Kimmel is of the view that the university’s decision not to investigate rape complaints has emboldened the off-campus fraternities and also directly flouts the directive issued by the Department of Education. Kimmel believes the lack of response from the university is passing a subtle message to the fraternities that it is alright to commit rape as long as it is done off-campus.
Ms. Weckhorst, 21, said she had consumed too much alcohol at a Sigma Nu fraternity party in April, 2014. According to her, a freshman who offered to help took her to his truck and raped her there. She said that, during the sexual act, students gathered all around and were taking pictures and getting it all on video. She said she was again sexually assaulted in the fraternity sleep room by the same student. She had woken up to another man raping her a third time.
— Cari Simon (@mscarisimon) April 21, 2016
Arthur Hoge, a lawyer for Sigma Nu, said the fraternity’s investigation revealed that there was no campus event on the day of the rape. Weckhorst filed a complaint with university authorities even as she sought medical treatment. She said during that time, videos of the rape were being circulated on Yik Yak and other social media platforms. Since the event, Weckhorst’s grades have plummeted, causing her to lose out on an academic scholarship.
Similarly, Ms. Farmer, 21, after drinking too much alcohol at a Phi Delta Theta fraternity party, blacked out on a bed and woke up to a man raping her. Farmer said after seeking medical treatment she lodged a complaint at the university’s office. She said she had been told by the university that they would not investigate the rape because of its policy, which specifies “that it covers behaviors that happen on campus and at university-sponsored events, which does not cover fraternity houses.” Farmer eventually got depressed and slit her wrists at one point.
[Image via Shutterstock/Katherine Welles]