Sara Weckhorst and Tessa Farmer sued separate but similar federal lawsuits against Kansas State on Wednesday.
Both say they were raped after getting drunk at a fraternity party, and that Kansas State violated its own policy by not investigating. They say their reports should have automatically triggered an investigation under Title IX and the school’s student conduct policy.
Instead, they have “been left to languish on campus in fear and under the constant risk of encountering the unpunished, perhaps emboldened” student-assailants, they say.
Republican presidential candidate John Kasich drew national attention a week ago — and criticism — by responding to a college student’s question about sexual violence by saying, “Don’t go to parties where there’s a lot of alcohol. OK? Don’t do that.”
Weckhorst says she was attacked on April 26, 2014, during her freshman year. She says she went to a fraternity party at Pillsbury Crossing, not far from campus, blacked out from drinking, then a fraternity member named J.F. took her into his truck and raped her.
J.F. then drove her to his fraternity house and raped her again, Weckhorst says, then left her in the room naked and unconscious and went downstairs and rejoined the party.
“Several hours later, at about 10:00 p.m., Sara awoke from blackout, not knowing where she was or how she got there,” the complaint states. “A man she did not know was raping her from behind. She later learned the man was J.G., a K-State sophomore and a member of the fraternity. Still very intoxicated and confused, Sara made her way out of the bed and to a nearby patio. J.G. followed her to the patio and raped her again.”
Weckhorst says she cried uncontrollably when J.F. told her that two fraternity brothers had sex with her on the same day. She got her clothes and left.
“Sara later received a text from a K-State student stating ‘heard you got fucked at the lake,’ and rumors about Sara, and upon information and belief photographs and videos of her, were posted on social media and widely spread,” the complaint states.
Weckhorst says she reported the rape to Kansas State investigator Ameerah McBride on May 5, 2014.
“Ms. McBride delivered shocking news: K-State would do nothing about the rapes or the two student-assailants because the rapes occurred off-campus,” the complaint states. “Though the student-assailants violated the K-State Student Conduct Code, Sections 3(A)(3), (10), and possibly others, for which ‘disciplinary sanctions will be imposed,’ K-State would not investigate or take action to hold the student-assailants responsible, remove them from campus, sanction them, or protect Sara and the rest of the student population from their presence on campus in any way.”
Farmer’s story is similar: raped at a fraternity party on March 6, 2015 after drinking a large amount of margaritas, beer and wine.
After going home, she says, a fraternity member named T.R., whom she had known since high school, persuaded her to go back to the party. She says she had sex with T.R. and he left her alone in the room, presumably to start his car to take her home.
“While T.R. was gone, Tessa discovered a stranger had been hiding in the closet,” the complaint states. “She later learned he was C.M., a K-State student. C.M. admitted T.R. had made him go into the closet. Tessa, inebriated and confused, fell face first onto a bed, where she blacked out. C.M. pulled down Tessa’s pants and penetrated her vaginally with his penis while pulling her hair and whispering in her ear. Tessa came to and screamed into the mattress until he finished. He did not use a condom. When T.R. returned, Tessa was sobbing and in shock. T.R. showed no surprise by his roommate’s presence or by Tessa being so upset.”
At 3:47 a.m., Farmer says, T.R. messaged her on Facebook and asked her if she was on birth control, apologized and told her he didn’t mean for that to happen.
Farmer says she asked T.R. for the rapist’s name twice, but T.R. never responded and blocked her on Facebook.
“On the Monday or Tuesday after the rape, Tessa reported it to the K-State Center for Advocacy, Response, and Education (‘CARE’) director, Jenna Tripodi,” the complaint states. “Ms. Tripodi told Tessa she had two options: she could go to the RCPD (Riley County Police Department) or she could report the rape to the K-State Interfraternity Council (‘IFC’). Ms. Tripodi told Tessa the IFC would not investigate the rape, the student-assailant, or any other individuals, and instead would look only at the fraternity chapter more generally.
“Ms. Tripodi failed or refused to mention to Tessa K-State’s sexual misconduct policy or Title IX, and she did not refer her to a Title IX coordinator. She failed or refused to tell Tessa about the option to file a complaint against the student-assailant with the K-State Office of Institutional Equity (‘OIE’), which allegedly investigates sexual assault, or that OIE could investigate what happened and potentially have the student-assailant removed (for example by suspension or expulsion) from K-State. Tessa was not offered a no-contact order.”
Both women went to a hospital for rape tests. Both took medicine to prevent sexually transmitted disease. Both say Kansas State has long known about the dangers of fraternities.
Between 2011 and 2013, Kansas State reported 13 on-campus and 10 off-campus sexual assaults and in 2014 it reported 16 rapes, six of which were off-campus, according to the complaint. The women say that according to police reports, most of the off-campus rapes happened at fraternities.
“Yet, K-State tells students, prospective students, parents, and the campus community that Greek life is ‘safe and fun,'” the complaints state.
“K-State’s interpretation of its sexual assault policy deliberately turns its back on one of the most dangerous aspects of its campus life, conveniently writing fraternity rape out of its responsibility. Because of its unlawful position and refusal to investigate the rapes of [the plaintiffs] and other fraternity rape victims, K-State is under federal investigation by the United States Department of Education.”
The women seek declaratory relief stating that Kansas State violated Title IX and ordering an investigation of their sexual assaults, and damages.
Their attorney, Dustin Van Dyk, with Palmer, Leatherman, White, Girard and Van Dyk in Topeka, did not respond to a request for comment.
Kansas State said in an email: “Kansas State University does not discuss litigation matters in the media, nor do we publicly discuss individual reports of discrimination, including sexual violence.”
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