When Campus Rapists Are Repeat Offenders

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On Jan. 3, Mr. Gihring, 22, pleaded not guilty to charges of raping both women. A lawyer for Mr. Gihring, Brenda Jordan, did not respond to requests for comment.

But it was only after Mr. Gihring’s arrest by the police here in July — more than two years after Ms. Weckhorst first complained — that Kansas State took action to expel him.

Whether or not Ms. Stroup’s alleged rape was foreseeable — one of the issues posed by a lawsuit she filed against the university — her case raises disturbing questions about repeat offenses on campus, and whether universities do enough to prevent them.

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Kansas State University is facing lawsuits by Sara Weckhorst, left, and another student, Tessa Farmer, both 22, shown in Manhattan, Kan., in April. Each alleges she reported a rape that was not properly investigated.

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Amy Stroth for The New York Times

For several years, researchers have been fiercely debating how many campus rapes are committed by serial offenders. A 2002 study based on surveys of 1,882 college men and published in Violence and Victims, an academic journal, found that as many as 63 percent of those who admitted to behaviors that fit the definition of rape or attempted rape said they had engaged in those behaviors more than once.

But in 2015, a study of 1,642 men at two different colleges was published in JAMA Pediatrics and found that while a larger number of men admitted to behaviors that constituted rape, a smaller percentage of them, closer to 25 percent, were repeat offenders.

The difference could affect how universities approach rape investigations and prevention. For example, repeat cases raise questions of whether universities should be faster to remove students from campus after accusations.

“There are repeat offenders who seek out victims and will do this time and time again with impunity because there is no punishment,” said Annie E. Clark, a co-founder of End Rape on Campus, a nonprofit organization that works to assist those who have been raped and to prevent campus sexual violence. She added, “Whatever the number is, it’s way, way too high.”

A few recent cases, and the lawsuits they have spawned — like the one at Kansas State — have again put a spotlight on repeat campus rapes, and the questions they leave about whether something could have been done. Many university administrators say they are hampered in sexual assault investigations by women who are reluctant to identify their assailants or press charges. They also say that assaults frequently occur during parties at which students were drinking, leaving their memories clouded and the truth of what happened elusive.

At Kansas State, the federal government is now involved, investigating the university’s handling of the 2014 complaint by Ms. Weckhorst. The university is facing lawsuits by Ms. Weckhorst and another Kansas State student, Tessa Farmer, who also alleges she reported a rape that was not properly investigated, as well as the case brought by Ms. Stroup, now 19, who joined Ms. Weckhorst’s lawsuit in November.

At Indiana University, a former student, John P. Enochs, pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor battery, the result of a plea bargain. He had initially faced two counts of rape. A lawsuit filed against the university in June by one of his accusers, identified as Jane Doe 62, says Mr. Enochs raped her while she was passed out from drinking at his fraternity house. The suit says the university ignored Mr. Enochs’s history of sexual assault, failing to take steps to protect her from rape.

Nearly two years before Jane Doe 62 said she was raped, Mr. Enochs had been accused of sexual assault by another student. That woman supplied his name to university police, but initially declined to press charges.

In a statement by its spokeswoman, Margie Smith-Simmons, the university said its policy “provides for prompt response, a fair, impartial and robust investigation, and adjudication process when responding to reports of alleged sexual assault.” But, she added, “our ability to do so is also reliant on the involvement and cooperation of those who may have been harmed.”

Stanford University is fighting a lawsuit by a student who says she was sexually assaulted in 2014 by a man who had done the same to another student as early as 2011 and physically or sexually assaulted two other students. Nonetheless, the lawsuit says, the university permitted him to remain on campus through his 2014 graduation.

The university — roiled last year by the Brock Turner sexual assault case and more recently by an article in The New York Times about its handling of sexual assault accusations against a football player — says in its court papers in the lawsuit that the first woman did not identify the man for nearly a year, then initially declined to participate in an investigation.

“We have sympathy for the plaintiff in this case, but we will be vigorously defending the lawsuit as we believe that Stanford has acted with appropriate diligence and compassion within the constraints of privacy laws,” said a university spokeswoman, Lisa Lapin.

Denise Cordova, the director of the office that investigates sexual assault accusations at the University of Nevada, Reno, said most students do not provide the name of the person they say assaulted them. “I think, from my perspective,” she said, “we don’t always have the information about the person who has done this.”

That was not the situation, however, at Kansas State.

Danielle Dempsey-Swopes, a former Kansas State University sexual assault investigator, said she urged the college to be more aggressive in handling sexual assault complaints, ultimately reporting the university to the United States Education Department. “It makes me feel terrible that we might have been able to prevent it,” she said.

She and others at Kansas State say the problem was that the university had taken the position that it was not responsible for investigating accusations of rape in fraternity houses because they are off campus.

In her complaint to the Education Department, Ms. Dempsey-Swopes said she was ordered to “stall” investigating a rape accusation at a fraternity house because the university did not want to be responsible. Also, the departing president of the university’s Interfraternity Council, Zach Lowry, said the university referred sexual assault complaints involving fraternities to his organization without investigation.

“When we get these, they’re pretty disturbing,” said Mr. Lowry, a senior political science major from Stockton, Kan. “When we give them to our judicial board, they’re students. They’re not trained to handle investigations.”

Officials at Kansas State declined requests for interviews, but, in a statement, the university said its protocol was to “address misconduct and safety concerns expeditiously and it always has been.” It added that “the blanket statement that K-State does not investigate off-campus incidents is simply inaccurate.”

But Ms. Stroup believes her rape could have been prevented if the university had heeded warnings from Ms. Weckhorst, of Doylestown, Pa.

On April 26, 2014, when she was a 19-year-old freshman, Ms. Weckhorst had joined friends at Pillsbury Crossing, a recreation area near Kansas State’s campus that is known for its picturesque waterfalls and a shallow swimming area. After drinking as many as 13 shots of liquor, she said, she recalled little of what happened that day after 4 p.m.

When she woke up hours later, she said, she was in a room filled with beds, completely naked, intoxicated and confused. As she lay face up on a mattress, a man she did not know was having sexual intercourse with her.

“When Sara was able to get the male off her, she got up from the mattress and at that time the male made a statement that he wasn’t the first guy she’d had sex with that day,” the police report said.

The man told Ms. Weckhorst that she also had sex twice that day with another man — once in the bed of a truck at Pillsbury Crossing and again when he drove her to the Sigma Nu fraternity house, according to the police report.

Word of what had happened at Pillsbury Crossing circulated on the social media app Yik Yak, according to Ms. Weckhorst’s lawsuit.

Ms. Weckhorst filed a complaint with an investigator for the university, naming Mr. Gihring and the other man, both Sigma Nu pledges.

But the university employee told her that because the reported events occurred off campus, Kansas State would not take any action, according to her lawsuit.

After the semester ended, she and her parents met with university officials on campus.

“This will continue to affect our daughter for the rest of her life,” her mother said during the meeting. Nothing “will ever Band-Aid what has been done by this facility of higher education.”

Mr. Gihring, of Newton, Kan., eventually moved to University Crossing, an apartment complex within view of the university’s football stadium. Ms. Stroup arrived at Kansas State from Clay Center, Kan., for her freshman year in August 2015. She also moved into University Crossing, in an apartment near Mr. Gihring.

The lawsuit she filed in November says that, after the small gathering at their apartment on Oct. 6, 2015, her roommates left Mr. Gihring to watch over her while they went for food. “Once alone in the apartment, J.G. went into Crystal’s bedroom and raped her,” the complaint says, referring to Ms. Stroup.

On the advice of her lawyer, Cari Simon, Ms. Stroup would not discuss details of that night because she may be called to testify in the criminal trial against Mr. Gihring, scheduled for May.

Ms. Stroup said she had been under immense stress, partly because it was impossible to avoid Mr. Gihring on campus and at her apartment complex. Ultimately it affected her grades and forced her to drop out of school, she said.

She now works in a nursing home kitchen, not exactly the health care career she had hoped for. “I don’t know how to pick up the pieces and start over again,” she said.

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