Editors Note: Survivor’s name has been changed to Hope to protect the survivor’s privacy at her request.
They sat near each other in his dorm room talking when he inched closer to her. Hope* ’15 put her left hand up to maintain distance, and he twisted it. She kicked him off, but he inched closer and tried to kiss her.
She told him no, to get off, that she had a boyfriend. They struggled for two minutes.
“The whole time I could only think that I just wanted this to be over with so that I could leave,” Hope wrote later in her incident report. “I just laid there like a coward until it was over.”
Hope went to Cottage Hospital and got a rape kit that night.
On April 30, 2014, President Teresa Amott said in a campus-wide email that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights was investigating Knox for potential Title IX violations over the way the college handled sexual violence cases. The announcement from Amott came one day before the Department of Education stated publicly it was investigating 55 colleges, including Knox.
Amott said the OCR first told Knox in January that it was looking into an incident that had occurred on campus in October 2013.
It was Hope’s.
The OCR has declined The Knox Student’s multiple Freedom of Information requests for OCR complaints, saying the investigations are still pending.
But Hope’s complaint has been open for almost two and a half years – double the average duration, according to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Two more complaints at Knox have been tacked on: One opened June 2014 and one in April 2016.
At the beginning of the 2014-15 year, Amott sent out a campus-wide email with an update about Knox’s Title IX policy, procedures and education.
That day, Hope responded to Amott:
“Frankly, I’m tired of receiving all of these emails now that an incident occurred,” she wrote. “So do me a favor and stop trying to act like you all care about students when you really just care about Knox’s reputation.”
At the urging of her roommates, Hope had a rape kit and got tested for STDs and pregnancy the night of the alleged assault. She spent five hours at the hospital.
“I wanted to make sure I was medically okay,” she later wrote in her statement to the Grievance Panel.
She didn’t think the college would find out about her assault and didn’t intend to get them involved. But Galesburg Police Department filed a report and contacted former Director of Campus Safety John Schlaf. Hope is now suing the city for invasion of privacy.
According to police reports, Hope said she wouldn’t cooperate with an investigation and wouldn’t pursue charges. She didn’t give the police the assailant’s name.
“At the time of this report, there are no suspects or leads and the victim, [Hope] is uncooperative,” Galesburg Police Officer Kyle Winbigler wrote.
But days later, she confided in her mom, who called a detective at Galesburg Police Department. GPD issued a search warrant, and collected a number of items: bedding, DNA, a used condom.
Hope changed her mind and decided to take the case to the Grievance Panel.
“It was already out there, and I felt like I didn’t really have a choice,” she said. “There was a national discussion on what models were the best,” said Lori Schroeder, who served as Title IX coordinator while Hope’s case was going through the Grievance Panel.
“There was a lot of sentiment that on a small campus you would not be able to avoid engaging very personally with people who were on your Grievance Panel,” Amott told TKS that February. “It creates an awkwardness. It can even go so far as to be not just merely awkward, but painful.”
That was one of Hope’s biggest qualms — she would often see people who sat on her panel around campus.
“This isn’t their job. Their job is teaching or being a student,” she said.
She remembers witnesses at her hearing said they’d seen her in ‘short shorts’ and that she often had sex with other people.
“What the f*** does that have to do with anything?” Hope said. “I was wearing sweatpants. And they talked about how I dress on a daily basis. I always dress cute. That’s just who I am.”
She remembers a faculty member on the panel asked the alleged assailant if he remembers Hope consenting. He didn’t. They asked if she had said “no.” He said she didn’t.
“He just basically admitted to it,” she said.
But the panel found that there hadn’t been a violation of college policy against sexual misconduct. Hope appealed the decision twice and was denied the third time. At the urging of her victim’s advocate provided by the college, she filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.
“At that point I was pissed off,” she said. “Part of me wanted him to feel like I felt. I felt like my life was ruined at Knox because of this person.”
Neither current Title IX coordinator Kim Schrader nor Schroeder were able to comment on this particular case and transcripts of the hearing were not available due to privacy laws.
After the finding, she took some time off away from Knox. When she came back, she went through a lot of counseling. She stopped going to the cafeteria to eat, and she missed a lot of classes because she often didn’t want to get out of bed.
“That kind of ruined my reputation with professors, and I felt like I was very bipolar at the time. I’d be somewhat happy, and then I’d get really angry, and I’d have flashbacks and couldn’t sleep,” she said.
Sometimes, she’d just be sick. She lost a lot of friends that year because she felt so unstable.
“I couldn’t go out. My senior year I didn’t go to any campus parties,” she said through tears. “It makes me mad because my senior year was taken from me.”
Now, Hope is in a serious relationship, and she’s one year out of college. She said she’s in a good place. She’s trying to put this behind her.
But sometimes, she wakes up panicked and shaking.
If she didn’t go to the hospital that October night, none of this would ever have happened. She wishes she hadn’t.
“Still to this day I’m still shocked at the outcome of it all, and the decision that was made. There’s no way he cannot be found guilty of this.”
Her OCR investigation is still pending, and her invasion of privacy lawsuit is still pending against the City of Galesburg.
The city doesn’t comment on pending litigation, said City Attorney Bradley Nolden, who’s defending the city in the case. Galesburg Police Department also wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit.
Now, the OCR is investigating 235 cases of alleged sexual violence investigations at 185 schools. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, only 17 percent have been resolved.
According to the Department of Education, the OCR investigates using “fact-finding techniques,” including reviewing documents and conducting the site visit. The OCR communicates its decision in a letter to the complainant and recipient.
But that hasn’t happened. The OCR visited campus the second week of May 2014, and Knox is still waiting on a finding. In the meantime, it’s made a number of changes to Title IX procedures, including dissolving the Grievance Panel in favor of an outside investigator.
Schrader was appointed Title IX coordinator in July 2014, replacing Associate Dean Schroeder. She said Knox has kept up with guidance from the OCR, but it’s “frustratingly vague.”
“It’s sort of maddening,” Schroeder said. “Questions about who should be mandatory reporters or anything like that, you couldn’t get a black and white answer from the OCR.”
Hope hasn’t received any updates from the OCR or Knox in a while.
She’s not sure she ever will.
Two years ago, a student filed a federal complaint against Knox for the way the college handled her sexual assault case.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights accepted the Title IX complaint and agreed to investigate Knox and 54 other schools.
The announcement prompted a national conversation about sexual assault and violence on college campuses, and multiple pushes by the Obama administration to help prevent rape at colleges and universities.
Now, the survivor has come forward to share her story.
Since the announcement in May 2014, the Office of Civil Rights has opened two more investigations into Knox’s handling of sexual assault. There are 235 investigations open across the nation.
TKS corroborated Hope’s narratives with police reports, court documents and emails that Hope agreed to give the newspaper.