A lawsuit filed against Kansas State University (KSU) by two former students who were sexually assaulted was given clearance to proceed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which held that “Title IX does not require a subsequent sexual assault before a plaintiff can sue.” This victory will help these women and countless women across the country use Title IX to achieve justice and compel schools to protect survivors.
The two women who brought the suit, Tessa Farmer and Sara Weckhorst, were each brutally raped by KSU students at off-campus fraternity houses. Both reported the rapes to KSU and identified the perpetrators, one of whom is now in prison. KSU refused to investigate or take any action against the perpetrators, allowing them to remain on campus, and justified its indifference on the basis that the rapes occurred off-campus. Ms. Farmer and Ms. Weckhorst sued KSU for violating Title IX, alleging that KSU’s deliberate indifference made them vulnerable to further sexual harassment by the assailants. KSU disagreed, suggesting that their fear of encountering the assailants on campus had no “basis in reality.” The Tenth Circuit disagreed, ruling:
Plaintiffs’ allegations are quite specific and reasonable under the circumstances. Plaintiffs allege more than a general fear of running into their assailants. They allege that their fears have forced them to take very specific actions that deprived them of educational opportunities offered to other students. In addition, they have alleged a pervasive atmosphere of fear at KSU of sexual assault caused by KSU’s inadequate action in these cases. A Title IX plaintiff’s alleged fear of encountering her attacker must be objectively reasonable, but under the horrific circumstances alleged here Plaintiffs have adequately alleged that KSU’s deliberate indifference to their rape reports reasonably deprived them of educational opportunities available to other students at KSU.
“It feels so empowering to know that what Sara and I went through and the work we’re doing could potentially help people all over the country,” said Tessa Farmer. “It’s just amazing how you can take a terrible situation and turn it into such a positive movement for change.”
Ms. Farmer and Ms. Weckhorst are represented by Jonathon Fazzola, an attorney with The Fierberg National Law Group.
About Jonathon Fazzola & The Fierberg National Law Group
Attorney Jonathon Fazzola and The Fierberg National Law Group represent victims of violence and harassment, including sexual abuse and assault, to make certain their rights are protected, and ensuring perpetrators and institutions that fail to comply with their obligations to protect victims are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Read the Opinion Here.