Toward the end of the spring 2014 semester, Sara Weckhorst reported to Kansas State University officials that she had been raped at a fraternity house by two male students. Usually this sort of disclosure would trigger a university investigation, since Weckhorst and the alleged assailants were KSU students subject to the school’s code of conduct.
Instead, according to a federal lawsuit, Kansas State’s affirmative action office told Weckhorst it would not investigate or sanction the accused rapists because the alleged attack had happened off campus. Now, a new court filing argues that this decision had disastrous consequences, leading to another student, Crystal Stroup, being raped by one of Weckhorst’s accused assailants in October 2015.
“K-State’s deliberate indifference to Sara’s reports of rape ultimately led to J.G’s assault on Crystal,” the lawsuit alleges, using the initials of the alleged assailant, Jared Gihring.
Stroup didn’t learn until this year that the university had refused to investigate Weckhorst’s earlier report against Gihring.
“I reported so it wouldn’t happen to somebody else,” Stroup told BuzzFeed News. “I didn’t realize I was the somebody else.”
What’s more, new court documents show that Danielle Dempsey-Swopes, who was an investigator at Kansas State handling sexual assault reports at the time of the alleged attacks, told the US Department of Education that she was “marginalized and shunned” for opposing the university’s policy. She had insisted that it had a legal duty to handle off-campus rape cases involving students.
The new claims were revealed Monday through an amended complaint filed in the US District Court for Kansas, as part of two ongoing lawsuits from Kansas State students who say the university refused to investigate their rape cases. As a result of what happened to her, Stroup has now joined Weckhorst’s lawsuit as a plaintiff.
Weckhorst and Tessa Farmer each filed suit in April charging the public university in Manhattan, Kansas, with negligence and violating the gender equity law Title IX. The university has fought back in court by insisting that it does not have responsibility to investigate off-campus sexual assaults involving students, unless they occur at an official school event.
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