Kansas State Students Sue After University Allegedly Ignored Sexual Assaults

The school is being sued for allegedly refusing to investigate the allegations.

April 25, 2016, 9:12 AM

— -- The two women suing Kansas State University after claiming the school ignored their allegations of being sexually assaulted are breaking their silence.

Sara Weckhorst and Tessa Farmer told ABC News in an exclusive interview that they went public with their names because they feel they've done nothing wrong.

"If this is what we have to do to make sure that this doesn't happen to a single, one more person, if this is what it takes -- then that is what we have to do," Weckhorst told ABC News.

The women, both 21, filed separate suits against the school after they said university officials refused to investigate their reports of rape by fellow students ostensibly because the incidents had occurred off-campus.

On April 16, 2014, Weckhorst, who was a freshman at the time, had accepted an invitation to a fraternity event at Pillsbury Crossing, a frequent K-State party location not far from campus, according to the court filing.

In her suit, Weckhorst alleges that she became "extremely incapacitated" from consuming a large amount of alcohol and then blacked out. A student raped her in his truck while 15 other students looked on, some of whom recorded video and took photographs, according to the court documents. Her lawsuit also alleges that the student transported her to a fraternity house, where she was raped again.

"It was terrifying," Weckhorst said. "I am always fearful they will come back. Fear is the main thing. ... The only thing I hope to gain from this is that nobody has to have the same experience as us."

The fraternities were not named in either suit.

Farmer alleges in her suit that she was raped March 6, 2015, after a party at a fraternity house where she had become "very intoxicated." She went home, but later returned with a student to the fraternity house, where they had sex, she said. She blacked out and woke up to find another student raping her, according to court documents obtained by ABC News.

"I felt worthless and I didn't know how to do relieve that pain, there was no closure for it," Farmer said of the assault.

Both women said they reported the sexual assaults to police and went to hospitals where rape kits were taken. Farmer and Weckhorst also said that they each reported their assaults to two different faculty members.

On May 5, 2014, Weckhorst said she met with a K-State investigator of the Office of Affirmative Action, who is charged with enforcing the school’s sexual misconduct policy. According to court documents, the investigator informed Weckhorst that the rapes would not be looked into, since they didn’t occur at a university-sponsored event.

Farmer said she reported the rape to the director of the K-State Center for Advocacy, Response, and Education (CARE). Farmer said she was told by the director that she could report the incident to police, or she could go the K-State Interfraternity Council (IFC), but IFC would not investigate the rape, or anyone involved. Instead, Farmer said she was told by the director of CARE that the IFC would only look into the fraternity chapter.

"I went to the offices and they gave me a lot of back and forth, and I answered a lot of questions and they told me they couldn't investigate cause it was off campus," Farmer said.

Both the women's suits cite that "under Title IX, if a student files a complaint with the school, regardless of where the conduct occurred, the school must process the complaint in accordance with its established procedures.”

"What Kansas State seems to be ignoring is that the victims of sexual violence keep feeling the effects of the assault long after the sexual assault," said Cari Simon, who is the attorney representing both Weckhorst and Famer.

Kansas State is now at the center of four open title investigations for allegedly mishandling other complaints of sexual assaults, according to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. The university reports that in 2014, 16 rapes occurred, with six of the incidents happening off-campus, according to its Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report .

In a statement to ABC News, a spokesperson for Kansas State University said they cannot comment on litigation matters, adding: "The university has a strong policy prohibiting discrimination, including sexual violence and provides a multitude of resources and assistance to students and employees."

The president of the student body has released a public statement in support of the two students saying they respect the bravery of the women in stepping forward and that "a change needs to be made in order for all K-State students to feel taken care of and supported in all aspects concerning campus safety."

Both students are seeking monetary damages, and for the university to investigate their allegations.

The county attorney declined to press charges on Weckhorst's case and a decision on Farmer's case is still pending.

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