UPDATE: New lawsuit alleges WKU, Greek organizations failed to protect student from being forced to drink, raped in residence hall

Michael Crimmins, Investigative reporter

Editor’s note: This story contains references sexual violence and could be disturbing to readers. Under Herald policy, due to the nature of this lawsuit, the names of students involved have been replaced by “plaintiff” and “defendant”.


Update 2 p.m., 2/17/2022: This article was originally published on Feb. 16. It has been updated with documents that have been redacted to remove identifying information about students.

Update 1:47 p.m., 2/18/2022: The Herald has acquired the original WKUPD narrative report with accounts from the plaintiff, her friend and the defendant from between Feb. 11 to Feb. 26, 2021. This article has been updated with information from that document.


A student has filed a lawsuit against Western Kentucky University, Kappa Delta Sorority, Inc., Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and 17 other defendants alleging she was forced to drink at a fraternity event and later raped in McCormack Hall, court documents state.

Court documents provided to the Herald outlining the plaintiff’s account. Information identifying students has been redacted by the Herald. Click the image to view the full file.

The court document, filed Feb. 7, 2022, was written by the student’s attorneys, Louisville-based lawyers Ann Oldfather and Nicole Bush of Oldfather Law Firm. There are 20 defendants in total, including individuals, high-level administration members, Greek organizations and property managers unaffiliated with WKU. 

The Herald requested the initial WKUPD report following the discovery of the lawsuit. Information from that report has been added after publication to clarify the plaintiff and defendant’s narratives.

The plaintiff, a WKU student who was under 21 at the time of the assault, claims WKU President Timothy Caboni, the university and two greek life chapters, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Kappa Delta, failed to properly act in her defense following the incident. 

“We prioritize the safety and well-being of our students above all else,” WKU Director of Media Relations Jace Lux said in an email. “The allegations made against WKU in this suit are untrue, and we will formally file our full response with more information in the coming days.”

The plaintiff is suing for 10 counts, including “negligence and gross negligence” by the university, as well as damages caused by the event.

“[The plaintiff] endured, and will in the future endure, physical and mental pain and suffering, severe mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, depression, and loss of enjoyment of life,” the document states. “Further, it is reasonably anticipated that [the plaintiff] will incur medical expenses, lost wages, and a loss of her earning capacity.”

The suit stems from an alleged assault that occurred on Feb. 6, 2021. The plaintiff attended a fraternity event, called “Crush Dance”, where she “felt forced to take several shots” with one defendant, a SigEp member, the document states.

In order to attend the Crush Dance, SigEp members were required to bring a date. According to the document, the plaintiff was set up with the defendant by another SigEp member.

“[The plaintiff] had no intention of becoming intoxicated that evening,” the document states.

According to the plaintiff’s narrative in the WKUPD report dated Feb. 20, 2021, the plaintiff “had a margarita and was already becoming ‘buzzed’” at the Mexican restaurant the defendant took her to before the party. 

The plaintiff and the defendant had spoken through social media before the dance but had never met in person. According to the document, “[the defendant] began pressuring [the plaintiff] to drink before the Crush Dance.”

Before the Crush Dance, the defendant and plaintiff visited a SigEp house, called “Yosemite,” owned by defendants Kevin Williams and Emily Williams, for a “pre-party.” Trays of alcohol were made available to attendees, the document states. 

According to the document, “[Defendant] poured shots of alcohol and insisted she drink them instead. [Plaintiff] expressed resistance but felt forced to take several shots with him.”

The document states that “in agreeing to attend the Crush Dance, [the plaintiff] had believed that it was an official fraternity event and that it would have the required sober monitors and security and other appropriate supervision. Neither monitors nor security nor supervision were present. None of the attendees were required to check in through a guest list.”

Once at the “Compound House” where the dance was held, owned by defendant Trident Properties of Bowling Green, LLC, the defendant continued to pressure the plaintiff to drink alcohol and take shots with him, the document states.

According to the document, “the defendant forced [the plaintiff] by physical pressure to consume alcohol, literally pouring it down her throat.” 

The narrative of the plaintiff’s friend, dated Feb. 21, 2021, states the defendant was “‘feeding her drinks all night and that she became very intoxicated,” according to the police report. 

In the defendant’s account from the report, dated Feb. 11, 2021, he claimed he wanted her to stop drinking because it was “embarrassing” him. 

According to the plaintiff’s second account in the report, the plaintiff “did not mean to become as intoxicated as she was and was becoming embarrassed.”

The defendant “aggressively and persistently kissed [the plaintiff] throughout the night,” according to the lawsuit document.

“[The plaintiff] was not known for exhibiting this type of behavior, and it indicates her level of increasing incapacity and lack of self-defense,” the document states.

The plaintiff told WKUPD she “did not like him that way” but she let him kiss her “only because she was intoxicated,” the report states.

According to the document, the plaintiff’s friend then called a SigEp designated driver to take her and the plaintiff back to the dormitory.

The defendant convinced the plaintiff she entered the wrong car, the document states, before removing her from the car while the friend was distracted collecting her belongings.

In the defendant’s narrative, he does not mention removing her from the designated driver’s car but stated the plaintiff “agreed to go back to his dorm and spend the night. [The defendant] stated she walked with him to his friend’s car, where his friend drove them to his dorm.” 

The document states the defendant then took the plaintiff to McCormack Hall, where he resided. 

“[The plaintiff] was visibly intoxicated (as shown by McCormack Hall’s video surveillance footage) and unsteady on her feet,” the document states. “The WKU Desk Assistant at McCormack Hall checked her in and allowed [defendant] to take [plaintiff] to his room.” 

The police report states that though appearing to be “very unsteady on her feet” she “walked into the building of her own free will and [was] not assisted by the defendant.”

The document states that, according to WKU’s Handbook for Residence Living, desk assistants  “must ask any individual who walks into the building under the influence of alcohol to wait in the lobby while the Desk Assistant contacts the Resident Assistant On-Duty.”

The document goes on to state that plaintiff “has flashes of memory” of checking into McCormack Hall and of being in the defendant’s room.

 According to the document, “[The plaintiff] remembers declining student defendant’s sexual advances numerous times.” 

“[Defendant] proceeded to rape [plaintiff]. [Plaintiff] remembers [defendant] degrading her. [Plaintiff] remembers telling him he was hurting her, but he did not stop but instead went faster,” the document states. “[Plaintiff] remembers the pain. [Plaintiff] remembers being forced to perform oral sex on [defendant].”

As with other sections from the police report, the narrative of the plaintiff and defendant differ. In the report, the defendant said he instead “began feeling sick because he drank a lot” and that once in bed together the plaintiff began “rubbing his leg and fondling his private parts.”

According to the report the defendant “began feeling very sick” and went to the bathroom to throw up and then went straight to bed. 

According to the suit, the plaintiff went to the Medical Center in Bowling Green at 3:12 a.m. on Feb. 8, 2021. The plaintiff had a full sexual assault assessment which “established redness and a mild abrasion along with reports of soreness.” 

The document states that plaintiff “had to take Plan B and was tested for numerous STIs, which were reported ultimately as negative.”

According to the document, the forensics nurse who performed the examinations stated that she “sees these kinds of attacks coming from WKU weekly.”

As a result of the assault, the document states that the plaintiff “has seen a decline in her academic performance.”

“[The plaintiff] had numerous incompletes during the semester of her assault which is hard for her to accept because she has always excelled in school,” the document states. “She now has trouble focusing on her schoolwork because it takes her back to that day.”

According to the document, the plaintiff chose to pursue legal action “to protect other women from enduring the same experience.”

The document states, “[the plaintiff] continues to experience nightmares and moments of stress and anxiety surrounding the sexual assault and waking up in [the defendant’s] dorm room.”

The document states that the plaintiff was “damaged by ridicule and ostracism after the rape,” as well as “shunned by sorority sisters at KD and labeled a ‘buzz kill’.” The suit states that “[the plaintiff’s] car has been keyed. Her tires have been vandalized.”

According to the document, “[the plaintiff] is aware of at least three other instances where a SigEp member sexually assaulted someone.”

According to the document, “the Assistant Commonwealth Attorney said he believes [the plaintiff’s] allegations and affirmed that ‘this happens every week’ yet he has declined to pursue criminal charges. This feeds [the plaintiff’s] perception that sexual violence is minimized, or subconsciously blamed on the victim.”

According to the WKUPD report, Commonwealth Attorney Tres Miller told police on Feb. 26, 2021, that they would not seek prosecution at that time.

The document states that “when [the plaintiff] reported her sexual assault, a fellow KD member and KD officer referred to [the plaintiff’s] rape as a ‘lowkey’ rape, and most members expressed agreement with that comment.”

According to the document, the plaintiff resigned from Kappa Delta on June 3, 2021, as well as from [her position], stating that she “could not recruit young women into a system that is currently perpetuating rape culture[.]”

The suit also states that Kappa Delta’s culture promoted excessive drinking of alcohol. 

According to the document, “[the plaintiff’s] pledge class was invited to a KD-hosted party for someone turning 21. Older members were instructed to be sober and drive the new members. [Plaintiff] was told by the […] the member who created and oversaw the program, that the party served the purpose of attracting new members to a drinking scene where they could ‘safely’ determine who could handle their alcohol and who could not.”

The suit states that one new member went to the emergency room due to drinking an excessive amount of alcohol, “a not uncommon occurrence at KD parties.”

The suit alleges that Sigma Phi Epsilon breached its risk management policy by hosting the “Crush Dance” at its Compound House, “where alcohol was present on the premises”.

Additionally, the suit alleges that guests under 21 were consuming alcohol at a SigEp event “where bulk quantities of hard alcohol were available and not served by a licensed vendor.” 

SigEp members “permitted, encouraged, coerced, glorified, and participated in the rapid consumption of alcohol,” the document states.

The suit goes on to state that, “pursuant to SigEp National’s Risk Management Policy, no chapter or member ‘can permit, encourage, coerce, glorify or participate in activities involving rapid consumption of alcohol[.]’”

The suit alleges this was the primary purpose of the Crush Dance.

Heather Kirk, chief communication officer at the Sigma Phi Epsilon national office, said via email:

“We are aware of a lawsuit recently filed that alleges assault by a former member of the Western Kentucky chapter in a campus residence hall. The chapter has been fully cooperative in the investigation of this situation. While we cannot comment on pending litigation, I can tell you that SigEp takes any allegation of sexual misconduct very seriously, as sexual assault has no place in the fraternity experience. Throughout their SigEp experience, our members are educated on prevention, safe social practices, bystander intervention and accountability, because the safety of members and guests is our top priority.”

The lawsuit states that the WKU parties “did not enforce training on sexual assault awareness or prevention before the sexual assault on [the plaintiff].”

“Per WKU’s Title IX Coordinator [at the time], Deborah Wilkins, it was only after [the plaintiff] was sexually assaulted and spoke out that WKU implemented face-to-face training with its Greek Life ‘as punishment,’” the document states.

The document also states that no disciplinary action has been taken following the plaintiff’s assault. 

“Upon information and belief, Defendant WKU, Defendant Caboni, Defendant Bogard, Defendant Pride, and Defendant Rash have not imposed any disciplinary action on Defendant SigEp for its actions related to [the plaintiff’s] rape or its official events at which illegal and excessive alcohol consumption occur,” the document states.

The document states that WKU “is more interested in student recruitment and raising money than in enforcing its written policies to prevent illegal use of alcohol, preventing the sexual exploitation of women and the increased likelihood of sexual predation that accompanies the abuse of alcohol.”

Investigative Reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @michael_crimm