A third Kansas State University student is suing the school because it allegedly refused to investigate after she reported being raped by another student in an off-campus apartment complex.
In April, two students filed lawsuits against the university, each making the same claim that the school had refused to investigate reports they had been raped in separate incidents at campus-recognized fraternity houses.
The women in the initial lawsuits — Sara Weckhorst of Pennsylvania and Tessa Farmer of Overland Park — accused the university of violating Title IX, the federal gender discrimination law that protects students against sexual violence and harassment.
Their suits also accused Kansas State of negligence in failing to warn and protect the women against a “foreseeably dangerous environment” at K-State, and of falsely promoting Greek life on the Manhattan, Kan., campus as “fun and safe.”
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The cases at K-State are among nearly 200 other college and university cases being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education on complaints the schools mishandled them.
In a filing Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Crystal Stroup was added to the lawsuit filed seven months ago by Weckhorst.
Stroup says she was raped by one of the same K-State students accused of raping Weckhorst in October 2015. The student the women say raped them is not named in their lawsuit but is referred to as J.G.
“I’m devastated that before I was raped, K-State knew this same student had raped Sara but refused to investigate or kick him off campus,” Stroup said by email Monday. “It’s the ultimate betrayal for a university that is supposed to care about its students and educate the next generation.”
In July, former K-State student Jared Gihring was charged with two counts of felony rape and one count of sodomy in connection with the rapes reported to police by Weckhorst and Stroup. He was expelled from the university after charges were filed, the women said in their suit.
Gihring is scheduled to appear at a court arraignment in Riley County on Dec. 19.
Gihring’s attorney, Brenda Jordan, did not return a phone call Monday afternoon. University officials also did not respond to requests for comment.
“This case is precisely why a school’s responsibility to respond to rape is so important — giving an assailant a free pass leaves other students at risk,” said Cari Simon of The Fierberg National Law Group, representing the three women.
The university has maintained that it is not required to investigate the rapes because in all three cases, the alleged assaults happened in locations that are not university property, nor did they occur at a university-sponsored event.
But the suits take issue with that claim since the alleged rapes involved K-State students. The suits said that “under Title IX, schools … have an obligation to respond to student-on-student sexual harassment that initially occurred off school grounds … if a student files a complaint with the school.”
In July, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Education in court documents said that K-State’s policy to not investigate complaints of student-on-student rape when the attacks occur off campus is wrong.
In her suit, Weckhorst says that as a K-State freshman she was raped multiple times by two K-State students during an April 26, 2014, fraternity event and later the same evening at a frat house. The suit says Weckhorst was intoxicated, confused and at one point blacked out.
The Farmer suit says she was raped by an unknown K-State student at a frat house on March 6, 2015, after a night of partying with friends.
Stroup says she was raped her freshman year following a small gathering with roommates and friends on Oct. 6, 2015, at their University Crossing apartment, across the street from campus.
Stroup, in the lawsuit, says that she and her roommates, having no idea that Weckhorst had accused another student of rape, invited the same man to their gathering.
That male student lived in the University Crossing apartments.
The suit said Stroup became intoxicated. Her roommates left the male student to watch Stroup and they went for food. The suits says that once left together in the apartment, the male student entered her bedroom and raped her.
Stroup went the next day to the hospital and underwent a rape kit and reported the rape to the police.
The latest court action claims that “K-State had actual knowledge” of the risk this male student posed to female students, “yet refused to take action, leaving students like Crystal (Stroup) vulnerable and unable to protect themselves.”
Monday’s court document also claimed the university was aware of “specific dangers of fraternities to women,” citing reports of sexual offenses that occurred on campus and off campus and involving fraternities from 2011 through 2014. The suit said police reports indicate at least 11 forcible rapes were reported to have occurred at K-State fraternities between 2012 and the present.