Crime & Courts

Two women sue Kansas State, say school failed to investigate reported rapes at fraternities

Kansas State University refused to investigate reports of rapes that occurred at off-campus fraternity events and fraternity houses, according to two federal civil rights lawsuits filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.

Attorney Dustin Van Dyk, who filed the suits on behalf of two female current K-State students, says in the lawsuit the university’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.”

The women, whom The Eagle is not identifying because they are victims of alleged sex crimes, say male K-State students raped them at university-recognized fraternity houses in separate incidents in 2014 and 2015, according to the suits.

The women say they reported the alleged assaults to the university but officials refused to conduct investigations because the frat houses are not on campus. The lawsuits say the women are now fearful and “under the constant risk” of encountering their alleged rapists at the school because the university did nothing.

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.

Two federal civil rights lawsuits filed Wednesday by female K-State students

They also say K-State’s failure to act “created a climate in which such misconduct was tolerated … and (it) encouraged sexual assault and gender-based violence at its fraternities” in violation of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits schools that receive federal funds from engaging in sex discrimination. The law also addresses sexual assault and sexual harassment.

K-State spokesman Steve Logback in an e-mailed statement said the university “does not discuss litigation matters in the media, nor do we publicly discuss individual reports of discrimination, including sexual violence.”

The university, he said in the e-mail, “has a strong policy prohibiting discrimination, including sexual violence, and provides a multitude of resources and assistance to students and employees. The university’s anti-discrimination policy … addresses off-campus conduct in compliance with Title IX.”

Between 2011 and 2014, K-State reported 23 forcible sex offenses on campus and 16 off campus, with many of the off campus accusations involving K-State fraternities, according to the lawsuits. The Education Department has advised universities that they are required under Title IX to investigate accusations of off-campus rapes of students, specifically citing off-campus fraternity houses, according to a New York Times report.

Between 2011 and 2014, K-State reported 23 forcible sex offenses on campus and 16 off campus, with many of the off campus accusations involving K-State fraternities, according to the lawsuits. The Education Department has advised universities that they are required under Title IX to investigate accusations of off-campus rapes of students, specifically citing off-campus fraternity houses, according to a New York Times report.

K-State recognizes 25 fraternities, Logback said. None have on-campus housing, he said.

In addition to failing to investigate the rape reports, the lawsuits also say K-State:

▪ Knew fraternity houses posed a danger to students

▪ Misled students, prospective students and parents about the safety of Greek organizations

▪ Failed to regulate fraternities to ensure student safety

▪ Caused mental distress that prompted the women to withdraw from courses or avoid campus activities

Both women are seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages and demanding jury trials. They’re also asking that K-State be ordered to investigate their allegations.

The fraternities involved in the two women’s cases are not named in their complaints. The accused rapists remain at the university, according to the lawsuits.

The university has a strong policy prohibiting discrimination, including sexual violence, and provides a multitude of resources and assistance to students and employees.

Kansas State University spokesman Steve Logback, in an e-mailed statement

The cases are the third and fourth recently filed against a Kansas university involving sexual assault accusations.

Last month, a former member of the University of Kansas’ women’s rowing team filed a lawsuit against KU alleging she was sexually assaulted in late 2014 at Jayhawker Towers, an on-campus apartment complex. The woman’s parents also filed a civil suit against KU for misleading representations about the safety of campus housing.

Another member of KU’s women’s rowing team filed a similar lawsuit Tuesday, alleging she was sexually assaulted in her room at Jayhawker Towers on Aug. 29. The woman in Tuesday’s suit claims she suffered a hostile educational environment after reporting the attack to police and campus security.

The women at the center of the lawsuits filed against K-State say they were sexually assaulted after being taken to off-campus frat houses in 2014 and 2015.

The K-State students’ cases are the third and fourth recently filed against a Kansas university involving sexual assault accusations.

One says she was a freshman when a male K-State student raped her in a truck on April 26, 2014, during a fraternity event at a popular off-campus party spot while about 15 other students looked on; some took videos and photos. She was raped by again by the same man, as well as a second K-State student, after being taken to a K-State fraternity house, the 29-page complaint filed in her case says.

The other woman says she was raped on March 6, 2015, by a K-State student in a room at a K-State fraternity house, according to the 24-page complaint filed in her case.

Both women sought medical attention and underwent a sexual assault exam, including DNA evidence collection with a rape kit, and reported the alleged rapes to the Riley County Police Department.

The women also both went to K-State officials, the lawsuits say, but were told their reports would not be investigated by the university because the alleged assaults took place off campus.

Under Title IX and the university’s own sexual assault policy, the reports “of sexual violence should have triggered an investigation,” the lawsuits say.

K-State has knowledge of incidents of sexual assault at its fraternities far beyond those of ... (the two women), yet it does not warn victims of those dangers or take action when they report.

Attorney Dustin Van Dyk, who filed the lawsuits against K-State

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker

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