LAWRENCE, Kan. — The University of Kansas received nearly twice as many sexual assault complaints in 2014 than the year before, likely because of increased awareness after public criticism of the school’s handling of rape allegations, a school official said.
The school’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access received 169 complaints last year, compared with 85 in 2013, Executive Director Jane McQueeny said last week during a presentation to the university’s Sexual Assault Task Force, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.
McQueeny said 120 of last year’s complaints were filed under Title IX, a federal law that requires campuses to provide education in an atmosphere free of sexual violence and domestic violence.
She estimated that half of the complaints came in after September, when students and faculty protested against the university’s handling of alleged rape complaints.
“That dialogue on campus really did help encourage reporting,” McQueeny said.
Twenty-eight of the complaints remain open, and five new complaints have been filed so far this year.
The complaints filed under Title IX overwhelmingly involve women filing against men, with a few involving faculty but most students complaining against other students. A majority involved students who live in residence halls but who were allegedly assaulted off-campus, she said.
The IOA office added two investigators in the fall and now has four following up on the complaints, she said.
“We push really hard, and sometimes it’s a very difficult balance” of pressuring a traumatized victim too much and fulfilling the obligation to conduct an investigation, McQueeny said.
The Sexual Assault Task Force was created last fall to recommend how the university could improve its response to and prevention of sexual assaults. That came after some students, faculty and Lawrence residents publicly criticized Kansas as being unsafe and a fraternity was investigated—and eventually put on two years of probation—after the school received reports of a sexual assault during a party.
Kansas, Kansas State University and Washburn University are among 85 universities nationwide being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education for their handling of sexual assault complaints.