A free email newsletter breaking down the issues that affect Kansans and Missourians the most.
Delivered every Tuesday and Thursday morning
Sky Boschen’s time as a University of Missouri-Kansas City student has been difficult since she filed a rape report her freshman year.
Boschen successfully pursued a Title IX case against a fellow UMKC student, resulting in his suspension for sexual misconduct; led a demonstration against sexual assault; and revived a student group focused on sexual assault prevention and advocacy, Roos Against Violence Everywhere. Her activism was covered in local media.
Yet Boschen has felt unsupported as a survivor navigating life at college, and her frustrations continue. She says she’s burned out.
Some friends have stood by her, and two staff members at the university’s resource office have been helpful.
But she’s seen nothing like the recent response at the University of Kansas, where hundreds of students rallied outside a campus fraternity after a reported rape, calling for justice and improvements to the university’s handling of such cases.
Instead, Boschen has gotten pushback from fellow students who think she shouldn’t have made a report under Title IX, the section of a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education for programs that receive federal funding. She doesn’t think the university has made changes after she raised concerns.
Now, the student who she accused is nearing the end of his suspension, and she’d like to know if he’ll be back on campus, if she needs to rearrange her schedule around his. UMKC officials told her they will let her know if he’s cleared to re-enroll but won’t automatically notify her if he actually signs up for classes. She’s responsible for requesting the information.
Exhausted, Boschen has taken a step back from leading Roos Against Violence Everywhere and is asking for help leading advocacy efforts on campus.
“I hope that someone else will either take it and take charge (of RAVE), or that someone will reach out to me and say, ‘Hey, I want to help you with this,’” she said. “Because I couldn’t do it on my own, and it just got really difficult.”
How UMKC handled her rape report
In January 2020, Boschen, then a 17-year-old freshman, hosted a small party in her dorm room. She says she was black-out drunk when a fellow student who lived in the same building raped her.
Boschen reached out to the resource office on campus, RISE, where she was directed to the Title IX office.
Though RISE staff members were helpful and supportive, they weren’t able to go with her to Title IX meetings, something Boschen said would have been comforting.
So she went alone.
She didn’t find out until after the first meeting that she was allowed to have a support person with her and that under Title IX, the university would even provide one at her request. Her mom attended a later meeting.
Boschen said interviews with Title IX staffers were upsetting as investigators shared witness accounts from the night of her assault, including details that were new to her because they happened when she was blacked out.
The revelations triggered her trauma, leaving her sick and pale, and she didn’t sense empathy from her interviewers.
“It was very direct, and it felt very harsh,” she said.
“I wish that I had someone who was staff who could have helped me navigate the whole system so I didn’t have to do it all by myself,” Boschen added. “And that just doesn’t exist.”
After a monthslong process, the university Title IX investigation determined it was more likely than not that a fellow student had sex with Boschen when she was clearly incapacitated. He was suspended for 18 months. The Beacon is not naming him because he has not been charged with a crime.
UMKC responds to concerns about sexual assault policies
UMKC responded to The Kansas City Beacon’s questions about its policies via email. The university declined an interview.
Instead, officials sent an email detailing a list of support services offered to students through the Office of Affirmative Action and RISE, such as referrals to campus resources, mutual contact restrictions, campus police escorts and adjusting schedules and housing.
In a written statement from KC Atchinson, director of affirmative action, Title IX coordinator and employee Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for UMKC, the university said it “devotes significant resources to provide protection, services and support to those who have been directly affected by sexual assault and sexual violence.”
“By their nature, incidents reported to the Title IX office can be traumatizing and triggering, however our Title IX staff members undergo annual trauma informed training to gain the latest knowledge, including interview techniques and response strategies to help complainants feel more comfortable,” Atchinson wrote.
But Boschen said the university’s support options weren’t well-explained. She only learned of some services after she complained publicly about deficiencies.
UMKC is “supportive of our students’ rights to peacefully demonstrate” and encourages any activism and education aimed at preventing sexual assault, Atchinson wrote.
UMKC did not name any changes made specifically in response to Boschen’s concerns, but Atchinson said Title IX staffers and RISE continually work to expand support and improve their practices.
One recent change is that the RISE office will continue to offer virtual appointments even after the COVID-19 pandemic for students who prefer that.
But Boschen says some of her specific requests for support were turned down and others were poorly handled.
Before the rape investigation was complete, for example, UMKC said it would help Boschen find alternative housing but wouldn’t force the person she accused to move. She stayed because she felt it was unfair for her to be the one to leave.
Atchinson wrote that the university cannot require students to move until a final decision is reached in the Title IX investigation, a policy now required by a federal rule from May 2020. Upon request, UMKC will work with either party to adjust schedules, living arrangements and transportation.
Title IX staffers’ handling of witnesses in her case exacerbated backlash from fellow students who thought she was lying or wrong to pursue her complaint, Boschen says.
For example, when she told Title IX staffers that other students were harassing her, Boschen said she was complying with the office’s request that she report any conversations she had about her case. But — to Boschen’s surprise — it led the office to order the students not to contact her.
“I was seen as the villain by everyone in the dorms, because they found out about that and thought that I was the one who decided to put that in, when it wasn’t my choice at all,” she said. “None of it was my choice. … I felt so out of control.”
Atchinson said UMKC cannot comment on a specific case but that mutual no-contact orders are common practice with sexual assault, stalking or domestic violence cases and can sometimes be put in place for people not directly involved in the case.
According to UMKC, there were two rapes reported during the 2020-21 school year, and nine during the 2019-20 school year, when Boschen made her report. UMKC said the recent low numbers are likely due to COVID-19 quarantine protocols in early 2020. The reports could be from incidents that happened off campus or that happened in previous years but were reported during that period.
Under Title IX, the university does not investigate all reports of rape, including if the accused is not affiliated with UMKC or if the victim does not want the report investigated. Exceptions are made in the latter case if the university believes a person poses a danger to campus or if there have been multiple complaints about the same person.
Boschen also made a report to the campus police but received a letter from the Jackson County prosecutor’s office saying there was not enough evidence to prosecute.
“We are very supportive and sympathetic of this victim but unfortunately we’re unable to prosecute this case because … we did not have sufficient evidence,” Michael Mansur, communications director for the prosecutor’s office, told The Kansas City Beacon.
Boschen said that when she called the office to ask about the decision not to file charges, the person she spoke to wasn’t sure if her rape kit had been tested. She said the person also told her physical evidence would not be sufficient proof because the defense could argue she consented to rough sex.
She didn’t expect that result when she agreed to the painful and traumatic rape kit. She also didn’t fully understand why police advised her against publicly saying the name of the student she accused unless he was criminally convicted — examples of how confusing the process has been.
Boschen was a minor when the incident happened and is now 19.
“That’s really young to have to navigate all that kind of stuff,” she said.
The toll of advocating for herself
When Maya Burtin, outreach and prevention education coordinator at RISE, suggested Boschen restart a student advocacy group called RAVE, Boschen thought the idea was “brilliant.”
The description on the UMKC website says the group is meant to work with the RISE office to support sexual assault survivors and educate fellow students through events and outreach.
Boschen says it had existed before her time at UMKC but fell apart when the students who led it graduated.
She served as president of the group during the most recent spring semester, but she found the work — and being on campus — traumatic and was discouraged by lack of engagement.
“I didn’t receive much support from the student body,” she said.
Resources for sexual assault survivors
- UMKC RISE office list of confidential support and medical services: https://info.umkc.edu/rise/support/
- UMKC RISE office staff contact information: https://info.umkc.edu/rise/contact-us/
- UMKC Counseling Services: https://info.umkc.edu/counseling-services/
- Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault 24-hour crisis line: 816-531-0233 or 913-642-0233
- Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Programs: https://www.mocsa.org/sites/default/files/hospitals.pdf
Boschen said about 20 people were involved with RAVE overall and 25 joined her demonstration, despite it being advertised in advance.
Some students are still working on the issue of sexual assault, such as a former RAVE board member who is petitioning to prevent Boschen’s accused rapist from returning to campus, Boschen said.
But RAVE is no longer active. Boschen decided not to file the paperwork to continue it so she could focus on her mental health. The process of advocating for herself and others had left her feeling burned out.
But her trauma is not over.
The student whom the Title IX investigation found was “more likely than not” to have raped her was suspended through mid-December, meaning he could enroll again while Boschen is still a student.
Atchinson told The Beacon there is an automated system in place to prevent people who are currently suspended from enrolling. No automated system exists to track students who re-enroll after their suspension is cleared because it is extremely rare for that to happen at UMKC.
A student seeking to return after a suspension under Title IX would have to meet with Title IX staffers to be cleared to re-enroll. The office would notify the victim if that happens and would offer counseling and other resources, Atchinson said.
But the Title IX office, which has five staff members serving more than 16,000 students and 3,500 employees, doesn’t have a system to alert Boschen if he actually signs up for classes after being cleared. A Title IX staffer said in an email to Boschen that the office could check records at her request, again making it Boschen’s responsibility to advocate for her own safety.
“Basically, she’s saying, ‘There’s nothing I can do,’ which is the response I’ve gotten with every ask,” Boschen said of the email she received. “I’ve tried my best as one person to make a difference at UMKC, but I’ve just come to the conclusion that on my own, I can’t do that.”
- Big changes could be coming to Kansas City Public Schools. There’s still time to weigh in. October 22, 2021
- Educators, advocates worry Independence district’s pronoun policy harms LGBTQ students October 20, 2021
- Vacant lots, absentee owners, little accountability. What’s going on with the Kansas City Land Bank? October 20, 2021