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Jul 15 2016
by Jenna Ciccotelli

Kansas State is Refusing to Investigate Two Rape Cases

By Jenna Ciccotelli - Jul 15 2016

Adding to the ongoing dialogue regarding sexual assault on college campuses is Kansas State's decision to ignore two cases of rape that occurred at off-campus fraternity houses.

According to Cosmopolitan, Kansas State has had no problem dealing with off-campus violence in the past--violence between a student and an athlete and hazing were both dealt with by police--but will not pursue the cases of Sara Weckhorst and Tessa Farmer because they took place off of school property.

Both women have filed lawsuits against Kansas State for events that took place at off-campus frat houses in 2014 and 2015, respectively. After both women reported the incidents to the school and the police, no action was taken. The school is arguing the same in court--although all parties involved are students at Kansas State and the fraternity is recognized by the school, they are not responsible.

Kansas State's sexual violence policy reads in part, " campus occurrences that are not related to University-sponsored programs or activities are investigated under this Policy only if those occurrences relate to discrimination, harassment or retaliation alleged on campus." So, under their own policy, the school is not held accountable.

However, according to the federal government, Kansas State's policy as a whole is wrong. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education's Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights wrote explaining the obligation universities have to handle sexual harassment under Title IX regulations. 

Title IX protects students in connection with all the academic, educational, extracurricular, athletic, and other programs of the school, whether those programs take place in a school's facilities, on a school bus, at a class or training program sponsored by the school at another location, or elsewhere.

A reminder letter was issued in 2014, explaining that off campus fraternities or sororities recognized by the university are "clearly covered" under Title IX, according to Cosmopolitan. The federal government has now stepped in again, with the Departments of Education and Justice issuing yet another reminder.

A school must respond to allegations of sexual assault in fraternity activities to determine if a hostile environment exists there or in any other education program or activity.

Cosmopolitan's Jill Filipovic explained the impact of Kansas State's decision to ignore the allegations. "Farmer and Weckhorst aren't suing K-State because they didn't like the results of the investigation--they're suing because there was no investigation at all. No investigation means no recourse: the women had to continue attending the same university as their alleged attackers, without even reasonable accommodations made if, say, one of the young women was placed in the same class as the man she says raped her," she said.

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one-third of all rapes and sexual assaults were reported to police in 2014, lower than any other category of crime. Only 40 percent of these led to an arrest or some other kind of closure, according to an FBI study of rapes reported in 2010.

Only Farmer's case is still being investigated--Weckhorst's was dropped. Yet in asking for their cases to be investigated, the women just want the rare chance to be heard.

Lead Image Credit: StockSnap via Pixabay

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Jenna Ciccotelli - Northeastern University

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