Parents Sue Kansas University Over Alleged Dorm Rapes
Daisy Tackett refuses to be another nameless Jane Doe.
She wants you to know her name.
And while the University of Kansas football player who allegedly attacked her and then shamed and stalked her afterward has managed to hide his identity, his 20-year-old victim has shown she’s ready for a fight.
Tackett’s parents lodged a lawsuit against the university and the young athlete is putting on a brave face. One that she wants her coaches to see. One that she wants the KU beancounters to remember. She could have been their poster child.
As a member of the elite rowing team, Daisy Tackett was recruited both for being a gifted student and a talented sportswoman (her track and field skills are also formidable). And the fact that she is 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds meant that it would take quite a brawny brute to test her.
But that is what allegedly happened when Tackett was attending a party one night at the university’s Jayhawker Towers. She had grown tired of the drinking and smoking and planned on leaving when a football player dissuaded her and asked if she would join him in his room to watch a movie.
Then as they were in his room the player allegedly raped her and forced her to perform oral sex, according to an interview she gave with The Dallas Morning News.
“I’m strong. I tried my best to get the kid off me,” Tackett told the paper.
She said the experience was traumatizing and at the same time inescapably real.
“I freaked out,” she said. “It’s not like some stranger, abducting me and raping me in a stairwell. I was thinking, ‘This can’t be.’”
Tackett confided to some friends and claims she “dropped it.”
But then came the panic attacks and the stalking.
The football player would show up with his friends and would squeal: “That bitch,” according to The Dallas Morning News.
Then, more recently, another female rowing team member was allegedly sexually assaulted by the same football player.
Silence was no longer an option. Tackett took her story to KU’s compliance office known as the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access.
“At first I was reluctant,” she said. “Then I realized if he’s assaulted two people, he has assaulted more or will assault more if we don’t do anything about it.”
Tackett’s close childhood friend, Bella Markham, told The Daily Beast she was surprised she chose to become a Jayhawk instead of attending Columbia University.
“She’s one of the smartest people that I know without a doubt,” Markham, a 20-year-old violist at the Julliard School, told us. “She so intelligent and so quirky and fun.”
Markham said she is amazed by her friend’s courage to come forward. “The amount of strength to put herself out there and expose herself to all the haters out there that are just evil… I admire her in every possible way.”
James and Amanda Tackett’s lawsuit takes a different path to fight college sex-assault cases. Most are commonly adjudicated following Title IX legislation.
But the class-action petition lodged by Tackett’s parents against the University of Kansas says the institute sold them a false bill of goods when it led prospective students to believe that “KU’s residence halls are safe and secure.”
“These representations are false,” the lawsuit bluntly states. “In truth, KU’s residence halls have for years been home to a known persistent and growing problem of instances of sexual assault.”
Tackett’s parents say the school may pledge to be a haven of safety but a disturbing number of assaults allegedly take place in the dorms.
The unprecedented lawsuit was filed in Douglas County, site of the school’s Lawrence, Kansas, campus.
“The reality is that KU’s residence halls are unsafe, although KU has consistently and aggressively solicited and procured enrollments through false representations and assurances of safety,” the lawsuit says. If proven true, this would theoretically place the university in violation of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. The state comes down especially tough on consumer cases.
For its part, KU noted in a statement to The Daily Beast that “the suggestion that our residence halls are unsafe or that we misrepresent campus safety in our student recruitment is baseless.”
The statement goes on to say the filed lawsuit “inaccurately portrays the environment at the University of Kansas and our ongoing efforts to ensure students are safe and aware of their surroundings.”
Tackett’s attorney Dan Curry, who once gained the spotlight for an unprecedented settlement with the Kansas Catholic Archdiocese, says that the lawsuit is indeed novel but it fits the alleged crime.
“It’s a unique way of looking at things,” Curry said. “It hasn’t been done before.”
He pointed out that universities are as much in the business of being a bastion of learning as they are peddling housing and other perks. “The universities are in stiff competition with one another by attracting students and saying ‘We have these great dorms, these great facilities.’
“It’s almost an arms race,” Curry said.
“They are saying ‘We’re a safe place to live,’ when it’s own stats say it’s not a safe place.”
If the Tacketts’ consumer protection case proves successful, universities will certainly take note.
Longtime sexual-assault defense attorney and law professor Wendy Murphy exalts the Tacketts’ lawsuit as “creative and clever” since it attacks sexual assaults on college campuses in a way that universities can’t quickly dismiss.
“This is going to be a shot across the bow to all universities,” Murphy told The Daily Beast, calling campus rape nothing less than an epidemic. “Parents are looking for the safest place to send their kids—especially their daughters—but at a minimum it has to be a place that’s safe.”
She says as parents weigh the pros and cons of different schools, they are swept up on safety promises. “If the university promises safety, they have to deliver it.”
“It’s kind of like when you put your daughter in college, you shop around just like you would with your parent and a senior living facility,” said Curry. “You hear how great it is here, that they take care of your meals.
“What they won’t tell you is every year somebody gets raped in this building.
“I would sure want to know about something like rapes before I put my mom in a home; and the same thing applies to an 18-year-old college student—you ought to be telling people that up front.”
The university’s own online marketing materials, the lawsuit points out, preach that “Students enjoy living on campus because it is convenient, safe and affordable.”
The fact that Daisy Tackett was allegedly violated in the school-owned and school-operated Jayhawker Towers is also, sadly, not an anomaly, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit says the residence hall “has a specific history of publicly reported sexual assaults of women” for years.
University of Kansas, in a statement to The Daily Beast, said that their policies go “beyond the minimum requirements of federal law” in regard to training and bystander intervention and campaigning against sexual assault. But the lawsuit points out that according to findings from the Clery Report (schools are mandated to report crimes if they receive federal subsidies) in 2014 “there were 14 rapes and 10 fondlings reported on campus... [and] 13 forcible sex offenses” the year before.
The crime stats are hard to dance around.
The lawsuit cites a bunch of them, including a March 2013 incident in which KU cops filed a sexual assault report that a female had been allegedly assaulted in Jayhawker Towers. Seven months later, another female student reported she was raped there by a fellow KU student.
In April the following year, the Jayhawker Towers were the scene of an alleged rape of another woman. A football player “was arrested after a 19-year-old KU student reported that she had been fondled while passed out in the parking lot of the Jayhawker Towers, where the football player was a resident.”
Two years later, another KU football player “was arrested and held on suspicion of sexual battery and criminal restraint stemming from conduct at the Jayhawker Towers,” the lawsuit details.
When the school’s Student Senate (of which Daisy Tackett was an elected leader) met, they determined that sexual assaults “represent a serious threat to our campus” and slammed the school’s “existing efforts” to deter and combat the rampant alcohol and sexual-assault problems as “not enough.”
At one of these meetings, Daisy Tackett stood and spoke with passion and vulnerability. Something in her voice left her friend and Senate colleague Danica Hoose in awe.
“I didn’t know until there was this one moment at a town hall meeting,” Hoose told The Daily Beast. “The chancellor was discussing something about how rape was punished at the University of Kansas.
“And Daisy stood up and spoke up and said: ‘Every single male that rapes a woman at the University of Kansas should be expelled.’”
It was her tone that shook Hoose, who says she knew then that her dear friend wasn’t just playing a passionate advocate but had been a rape victim herself. Hoose says Tackett is just one of 16 women whom she knows personally who have been raped on the University of Kansas campus.
“When she finally told me what had happened to her I cried… Ever since before she left, I was there from then on checking in on her and making sure she was OK.”
Hoose, a graduate in the school’s accounting program and two years older than Tackett, remembers trying to lend support before her friend transferred from the school. She says Tackett “was all about making sure that students knew what was going on... Her number one trait is honesty.”
Seconding that is fellow Student Senate member and friend Chance Maginness, who told The Daily Beast that “Daisy is one of the most dedicated, hardworking, and absolutely brilliant individuals I have ever met.”
The 19-year-old met Tackett when they were campaigning together for their seats.
He noted that whenever the tempers flared and civility was lost, Tackett always injected some levity. “We’d usually end up shouting at one another, she’d still come up to me and crack a joke like nothing happened,” he said. “No matter what, our friendship was always the most important thing at the end of the day.”
To him, Tackett’s absence from KU is irreparable. “She’s one of the best people in my life.”
Meanwhile, Tackett’s dear friend Danica Hoose is determined to no longer be silent until the administration institutes some changes.
“My little sister is coming to KU next year,” she said. “This is why I’m the biggest advocate. Because I can’t believe this guy who has been known to be a serial assaulter is continuing to stay on the same campus where my baby sister is set to join.”