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Protesters gather on KU frat lawn over sex assault allegations

Article updated at 10:37, 10:53, 11:09 p.m. Monday, Sept. 13, and 12:09, 9:37 a.m. and 4:07 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14:

Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of a University of Kansas fraternity Monday night after a student reported that they had been the victim of a sexual assault there recently.

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A woman said she had been roofied and raped at the house, according to social media posts from one organization promoting the protest.

Part of 15th Street was closed as some protesters stood in the street, while masses flowed into the yard of the house near campus, 1602 W. 15th St. Protesters replaced a flag for the fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, with a sign reading “No means no.”

The fraternity posted a statement to Instagram in response to the protest and allegations: “On Sunday, September 12, Phi Kappa Psi became aware of allegations against a new undergraduate member based on alleged events occurring at the chapter house on the night of Saturday, September 11. University of Kansas officials were immediately notified so a full and prompt investigation could be initiated. Phi Kappa Psi takes these allegations very seriously and will fully cooperate with law enforcement.”

Phi Kappa Psi faced a cease-and-desist order and two public health bans from campus properties last school year — a 14-day ban in August 2020, followed by a 10-day ban this February — after violating the Douglas County health order and KU regulations related to COVID-19. Six total fraternities were included in the two bans, but Phi Kappa Psi was the only one included in both.

Around 10:30 p.m., protesters were told to disperse, a Times reporter at the scene observed. They started chanting, “Same time tomorrow.” The protest had been scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. Monday.

A Change.org petition to “Ban Phi Kappa Psi,” started earlier in the day Monday, had already reached almost 6,000 signatures around midnight Tuesday.

“We are trying to make our greek system and University of Kansas a safer place. Please sign this petition to remove Phi Kappa Psi from our campus to stand in solidarity with those effected,” the description on the petition, created by an anonymous user, stated.

Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, a spokesperson for KU, said via email Tuesday morning that the university “takes seriously all allegations of sexual violence and has robust processes to investigate such allegations.”

“We encourage anyone who has experienced sexual violence to contact law enforcement or the university’s Office of Civil Rights and Title IX to initiate an investigation. Additionally, the university has multiple resources available to assist individuals who have experienced sexual violence. We encourage students to contact the university’s CARE Coordinator if they or someone they know has experienced sexual violence.”

Lawrence police, in a news release Tuesday afternoon, addressed social media posts saying that police had used pepper spray on protesters: “This was done by private security personnel in advance of police arrival,” according to the news release sent by department spokesperson Patrick Compton.

“We are also aware of an incident involving a possible sexual assault near campus over the weekend. In order to protect the privacy of victims, we do not comment or provide details about sexual assault incidents or their associated investigations,” the release continued. “We take allegations of sexual assault very seriously. Part of the trauma-informed process utilized by the Lawrence Kansas Police Department focuses on empowering survivors by allowing them time and space to make their own decisions. We encourage anyone who is a victim or has knowledge of a sexual assault to call us at 785-832-7509.”

There were no arrests made and no injuries reported, Compton wrote. LPD and law enforcement officers from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and KUPD “maintained a law enforcement presence in the area for the duration of the protest to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” the release stated.

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August Rudisell / The Lawrence Times Protesters gather on the lawn of a University of Kansas fraternity house, Sept. 13, 2021.
August Rudisell / The Lawrence Times Protesters rally outside the Phi Kappa Psi house near the KU campus on Sept. 13, 2021.
Protesters gather on the lawn of a University of Kansas fraternity house, Sept. 13, 2021.
August Rudisell / The Lawrence Times Protesters rally outside the Phi Kappa Psi house near the KU campus on Sept. 13, 2021.
Protesters gather on the lawn of a University of Kansas fraternity house, Sept. 13, 2021.

Resources for survivors

If you have experienced sexual violence or trauma, please seek the help that’s right for you. There are many options available, and you don’t have to file a police report if you don’t want to.

Get 24/7 help in Lawrence: The Sexual Trauma & Abuse Care Center
  • Call 785-843-8985 to reach an advocate, 24/7. (Consider saving that number in your phone in case you or someone you know ever needs it.)
  • After an assault: What are my options? Check this page for detailed information about
    • talking to an advocate,
    • going to the hospital,
    • making a police report,
    • and/or talking to a counselor or therapist.
  • On campus? Check this page for specific resources for the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Baker University, Ottawa University and more.
Resources on KU’s campus:
  • Contact CARE (Campus Assistance, Resource, and Education) Coordinator Merrill Evans: Make an appointment with Merrill by email, care@ku.edu, or by calling 785-864-9255.
  • Direct message KU CARE Sisters on Instagram. You don’t need to be affiliated with Greek Life to reach out and/or receive assistance.
  • Find more KU campus resources at this link.
Domestic violence situations: The Willow Domestic Violence Center
  • Reach the Willow for help 24/7 at 785-843-3333.
  • Find more resources on the Willow’s website at this link.
  • National hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), text “START” to 88788, and/or visit thehotline.org to chat and learn more, 24/7.

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