‘It just wasn’t enough’: Loyola Senior Shares Her Experience With ‘Draining’ and ‘Discouraging’ University Sexual Misconduct Reporting Process

A Loyola senior who said she was assaulted at a fraternity party in February 2020 submitted photos, texts, receipts and multiple witnesses to Loyola’s Office of Equity and Compliance (OEC), but the school’s four-month investigation found the student she accused “not responsible” due to “insufficient evidence” in September 2020, The Phoenix has learned. 

Content warning: sexual assault, drugs 

A Loyola senior who said she was assaulted at a fraternity party in February 2020 submitted photos, texts, receipts and multiple witnesses to Loyola’s Office of Equity and Compliance (OEC), but the school’s four-month investigation found the student she accused “not responsible” due to “insufficient evidence” in September 2020, The Phoenix has learned. 

After the investigation finished, Maddie Kane said she was drugged at a different fraternity party in April 2021 but chose not to report the incident to Loyola because her first investigation felt “invasive” and “draining.” 

“I felt like I put myself through a lot of emotions and difficult meetings, reliving things I didn’t want to relive, only for there to be nothing done,” said Kane, a 22-year-old majoring in environmental and public policy. “I found it really hard to prioritize other things in my life while the investigation was going on, so I just had to choose myself and not go through it again.” 

Kane alerted student leaders in the fraternities of both incidents — one of the fraternities was investigated by its national chapter as a result — but Loyola doesn’t require student organizations to report sexual misconduct to the university, raising questions about its oversight of Greek Life. 

Kane agreed to share her story with The Phoenix but didn’t want to publicly name the fraternities involved. 

Kane posted her story to her Instagram account Sept. 14. It accumulated nearly 25,000 likes and more than 750 comments, many from students who said they had similar experiences at Loyola and other universities across the country. 

The same week, hundreds of students protested and demanded Loyola find better ways to hold students accused of sexual misconduct accountable, The Phoenix reported. 

“I think [the protest] really says something about how much the Loyola community has been impacted by this,” Kane said. 

In recent years, Loyola has faced numerous allegations from students who felt the university mishandled sexual misconduct investigations — by continuing to employ a professor found responsible by the university of sexual harrassment, failing to prevent a student expelled for rape from walking at graduation and allowing a serial predator to remain on campus for five months as an investigation unfolded. 

Amanda Walsh — an education program senior attorney at Victim’s Rights Law Center, which provides free legal services for survivors of sexual assault — said universities have a responsibility to continue to make adjustments to their accountability processes so students feel assured their concerns have been addressed.

“We have to recognize that the systems we have in place make reporting a very uphill battle,” Walsh said. “I think the onus is on the systems. Administrators need to listen and think, ‘I recognize this story could have a chilling effect on reporting. How can we do better? What can be done to prevent that?’” 

‘Something was clearly wrong.’ 

In February 2020, the spring semester of Kane’s sophomore year, she invited friends from her sorority to her dorm room to get ready for a party. There was an excited energy as the girls mixed drinks and painted gold glitter across each other’s faces to match the event’s theme, Kane said. 

“It was only like a month after a bunch of new girls joined the sorority and me and the other sophomores felt like we were moving up,” Kane said. “It was that feeling of pride you get when you’re not a freshman anymore and you’re the one being looked up to.” 

That night, a Loyola student who was trying to join the fraternity hosting the event sexually assaulted Kane, she said. The student, who The Phoenix isn’t naming because he wasn’t charged with a crime, didn’t respond to requests for comment. 

“I was definitely very drunk and unable to really advocate for myself or anything,” Kane said. 

Afterwards, Kane said she texted her boyfriend Richard Stoeckel, who at the time was a junior at Loyola she’d been dating for a few months, to ask him to come and get her. 

“When she came out, something was clearly wrong,” said Stoeckel, who’s now 23 and a graduate student at Loyola studying finance. “That was the first thing I noticed, that she was upset but didn’t seem like she was crying or anything.” 

When they got back to Stoeckel’s apartment, he said Kane broke down and explained what happened. 

Stoeckel encouraged Kane to take photos of her injuries from the alleged assault so she would have evidence of what happened because he “had faith” university authorities would be able to address the situation. 

“I just wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again and that the person could be found and proper actions could be taken,” Stoeckel said. 

Kane said she began suffering from panic attacks, especially when she would see someone on campus who resembled the person who she said assaulted her. She said she started going to therapy as a result of her anxiety. 

“I was just not able to be in public, really, and that started to affect how I felt about my academics, since I couldn’t go to class,” Kane said. “I was feeling really guilty about that, but I also wasn’t able to force myself to do it either.”

It was clear to Stoeckel the alleged assault, as well as later sharing the story of it, “impacted [Kane] in a very severe way,” he said. 

“I remember a point where we were with friends and all talking and having a good time and she had to step away and kind of just say ‘this is too much,’” Stoeckel said. “It was really hard for me to see her that way.” 

‘You can’t expect a bunch of kids … to know how to handle a really serious topic’ 

About a week after she said she was assaulted, Kane said she told the fraternity’s student leadership what happened and reached out to OEC to file a report in early March 2020. The fraternity’s student leaders banned the student from joining their specific fraternity — as he wasn’t officially a member the night of the party, Kane said. 

Tim Love, the director of OEC, said students — including those involved in Greek Life — aren’t required to report instances of sexual misconduct to university authorities but Loyola employees are. 

“This system only works if the University is notified of the incident in the first place,” Love wrote in an email to The Phoenix. “This message is frequently reiterated by SAGA staff and there is no reason why any [sorority and fraternity life] student would not know such a serious matter can and should be reported.” 

Loyola’s Student Activities and Greek Affairs (SAGA) Director Marissa Lucchesi said SAGA provides council leadership with information about how to report incidents but SAGA isn’t responsible for managing the membership of any student organization — meaning the student Kane accused could have joined a different fraternity. 

The fraternity leaders promised Kane they wouldn’t tell other fraternity members her name, but shortly after their meeting, Kane said she received follow requests across social media from various fraternity members, which made her believe her name had been shared. 

“These are student-run organizations and at the end of the day, you can’t expect a bunch of kids, who are essentially 18 when they join these organizations, to know how to handle a really serious topic,” Kane said. 

These student leaders and the national chapter of the fraternity didn’t respond to requests for comment. 

Just a week after Kane filed her own report with OEC, Loyola’s university operations moved online due the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with the rest of the campus community, Kane had to move out of her dorm, find a nearby storage unit and drive home to Nebraska.

“My mom was very cautious, in terms of like, ‘we’re in a pandemic, maybe now isn’t the time to start these bigger reports while life is already so overwhelming,’” Kane said. “She was very much like, let’s just wait and decide when life feels more controllable, so I did.” 

Kane returned to Rogers Park in June 2020 to move into her first off-campus apartment and work as an orientation leader, when she received an email from the OEC warning her the report she filed would expire after 90 days, she said. With the deadline approaching, she said she decided to start the investigation. 

Members of the Loyola community can choose to report misconduct to OEC and receive supportive resources — such as counseling, adjustments to university housing or safety planning, among other things — or file a “formal complaint” to launch an investigation, according to the university’s Comprehensive Policy and Procedures for Addressing Discrimination, Sexual Misconduct, and Retaliation. 

Kane said she trusted Loyola could handle the investigation internally and chose not to go to the Chicago Police Department because she felt “intimidated,” especially as a student whose family and support system live out-of-state. 

“When you’re the one living it, it doesn’t feel like you should be going to the cops, even though you probably should,” Kane said. 

‘He got to see my bruised body in a photo while also lying about what happened.’ 

For four months, Kane worked with a male investigator who collected evidence and interviewed people who were at the party that night, she said. 

“The part where it became much more difficult was in the interviews with my caseworker, who was male, when I had to go into very graphic detail about what happened that night, like the literal assault,” Kane said. “Having to explain that to a man was hard.” 

Students don’t have a say in which investigators are assigned their case at Loyola unless the investigator has a conflict of interest, for example, if they know the student, Love said. 

“Each of OEC’s investigators is trained and equipped to provide investigative services regardless of the subject matter of the case,” Love said. 

Because it’d been three months since Kane said she was assaulted and everyone had been sheltering at home during that time, she said the timeline of the night became fuzzier for everyone involved. 

“I know what happened and how it happened, but I don’t remember getting to that spot,” Kane said. “But I think it’s important to say that, that’s just how it goes. We were at a party, we were drinking. It’s just very blurry, which I feel like is common and often used against survivors of sexual assault who are expected to remember every detail.”

Memories of traumatic events are “encoded differently than more routine, everyday experiences in life” and often have “gaps and inconsistencies,” according to researchers at Canada’s Department of Justice. 

However, Kane said the Uber receipts, text messages and photos from the party helped to pinpoint when things occurred. 

During the investigation, Kane said the accused student’s friends sent repeated messages to her friends and she received a letter from a lawyer with the student’s last name threatening to sue her, which almost convinced Kane to stop the investigation. 

“I was like, I can’t go to court, I can’t afford a lawyer,” Kane said. 

Kane reported the communication to OEC but she said she didn’t know she could request a no-contact order — an interim measure universities provide that ban the parties involved in an investigation from contacting each other. 

“I feel like a lot of the resources in the process were very much like, you could find them out on your own, but if you didn’t do that, there was no one really coming to you with all these things,” Kane said. 

As the investigation neared its end, Kane said she was encouraged to submit the photos she’d taken of her injuries, but she was hesitant at first because both parties involved in the investigation, including the man accused of assaulting her, reviewed all the evidence provided. 

Because Kane said she felt like the investigator was implying the evidence “could make or break things,” she submitted the photos and said “it was the hardest thing” she did throughout the process. 

“It was just very traumatizing to think about,” Kane said. “He got to see my bruised body in a photo while also lying about what happened.” 

‘I could’ve done nothing and it would’ve been the same.’ 

Kane received an email with the university’s final decision Sept. 17, 2020. Loyola found the accused student “not responsible” for “non-consensual sexual contact” due to “insufficient evidence,” according to documents obtained by The Phoenix. 

The investigator assigned to the case compiles all of the evidence and determines the outcome of the investigation in a “comprehensive final investigation report” then notifies those involved, according to Loyola’s Comprehensive Policy. 

“The finding of insufficient evidence was particularly hard because I looked back on all the hours I spent calling friends, having to explain to them why they needed to send me photos or screenshots or be interviewed by investigators,” Kane said. “I felt like I submitted so much and it just wasn’t enough.” 

Loyola investigations operate using the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which states an accused student will be found responsible if evidence proves it’s “more likely than not” the incident occurred, according to the university’s Comprehensive Policy. 

This means if there’s a 51% chance the incident occurred the student should be found responsible, said Walsh who frequently works with survivors of sexual assault through Victim’s Rights Law Center. 

Though advocates prefer this standard to a “clear and convincing” standard, which requires a higher threshold of proof that many survivors might not be able to reach, any standard can be “arbitrary” if it’s not clearly defined in a school’s comprehensive policy, Walsh said. 

“Every decision maker is theoretically applying the same standard of evidence, but how they view evidence is really arbitrary in the sense that what is 51% to you is not necessarily 51% to me,” Walsh said. 

Loyola’s Comprehensive Policy doesn’t provide details about what types of, or the amount of, evidence required for an investigation to result in a “responsible” verdict. 

Love said questions about how much evidence is necessary are “best addressed on a case-by-case basis” because “such considerations can be highly complex and technical” but wouldn’t answer questions about specific cases. 

“If Loyola’s evidence standards are fair, they should stand by them instead of hiding what’s actually going on,” Kane said. “Don’t advertise that people can get help and all these things, if there’s red tape and other things that make it harder.” 

Walsh said all types of evidence can and should be taken into account, though evidence can be weighted differently in a case based on its credibility. For example, Walsh said video and photo evidence is often “especially useful” while witness statements’ usefulness varies based on their memory, state of mind and relationship to the parties involved. 

“It is true – whether in the criminal courts or any University’s disciplinary processes – that sexual misconduct cases are often difficult to prove, due to the sensitive nature of the behavior at issue, the fact that sexual violence often occurs in private circumstances, and the frequent involvement of alcohol and other drugs,” Love said. 

Kane said investigations should be reformed to better acknowledge how unlikely it is for someone to have hard evidence since sexual misconduct tends to occur in private. 

“I understand there are two sides to every story, but I think investigators need to put more weight on people’s experiences, especially if they’re willing to go through a four-month investigation and there are witnesses,” Kane said.

Love said OEC investigations are “conducted in a thorough, impartial, and professional manner by OEC’s staff of full-time investigators.” 

Walsh said university investigations “have become increasingly fair and comprehensive, though “not without their flaws.” 

“I understand it’s invalidating for survivors to hear stories about insufficient evidence and think, ‘if this person didn’t come back with a responsible finding, there’s no way I will,’” Walsh said. “But I see reporting parties get responsible findings all the time and we see not responsible findings too.” 

Stoeckel said he remembers seeing Kane “heartbroken” after she received the university’s decision and he felt upset she had to open up to investigators about such a “vulnerable” experience without seeing anything come from it. 

“I remember her telling me, ‘I could’ve done nothing and it would’ve been the same,’” Stoeckel said. “Basically, she was saying, the outcome could’ve been the same without all the effort and aggravation and reliving it.” 

‘I felt like I was going to die because I could have.’ 

About seven months after the investigation finished, in April 2021, Kane and Stoeckel went to a party at another Loyola fraternity to celebrate Stoeckel’s graduation. 

“We hadn’t been going out very much anyway, to try and stay safe from COVID, but we were finally vaccinated and it felt like a last hurrah, like we’d regret it if we didn’t go,” Kane said. 

Though Kane only had two drinks, she started to feel sick and had to leave the party early, she said. 

Once she got home, Kane said she couldn’t go five minutes without throwing up and vomited at least ten times. She said she had a high temperature, but felt like she was freezing even under multiple blankets. 

“I remember texting my boyfriend, ‘I’m so sick, I’m going to die,’” Kane said. “My mind was clear, but something was wrong.” 

When Stoeckel saw Kane’s texts, he said he left the party to be with her. They ended up calling for help and first responders arrived at Kane’s apartment, including Campus Safety. 

Kane said the paramedics suspected she was under the influence of drugs due to her vitals and heart rate, but she didn’t let them take her to the hospital and instead promised Stoeckel would drive her to the hospital if things got worse.

“I just remember freaking out like, I can’t pay the ambulance bill, I can’t pay a hospital bill,” Kane said. “I can’t go.” 

Stoeckel said Campus Safety officers wrote down their information and the address of the party as well, but at that point, Kane and Stoeckel didn’t know exactly what caused her to be ill. 

Campus Safety was present that night and took a report of a “sick student” at Kane’s address, which is within the area Loyola is required to monitor by The Clery Act. However, “the alleged incident” Kane reported to Campus Safety occurred outside of Clery geography, according to Loyola spokesperson Anna Shymanski Zach. 

Shymanski Zach wouldn’t provide further details about the “alleged incident” out of “respect for student privacy.” 

Kane said officers never followed up. 

“If a student asks Campus Safety to assist with reporting an incident either internally or externally, the Department does follow through,” Shymanski Zach said. “Campus Safety’s immediate priority upon receiving a report is the health and safety of the complainant. Campus Safety will offer the complainant options for medical assistance and allow the person to choose what they feel is best.” 

The next morning, Kane and Stoeckel said they bought an at-home drug test, which came back positive for methamphetamine and barbiturates. 

Methamphetamine can cause increased respiration, a rapid or irregular heartbeat and hypothermia, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Barbiturates can cause impairment of memory, judgment and coordination as well as sleepiness, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. 

“I felt like I was going to die because I could have,” Kane said. “I also felt a lack of control because I went to this party because I knew these guys and I felt comfortable with them, and a lot of them were my friends.” 

Stoeckel said the incident made him “question if there’s any event that’s safe.” 

“I don’t know if I feel comfortable going to any event, because what if it happens a third time?” Stoeckel said. “It sucks to say, but at some point you learn from it. You shouldn’t have to learn anything. You should be able to have fun.” 

‘From the start, it was not about her. It was about getting the frat through it.’ 

Kane and Stoeckel told the fraternity’s student leaders she had been drugged at the party and Stoeckel was told leadership reported this to the fraternity’s national chapter.

The national chapter suspended all activity within Loyola’s chapter in April 2021 while it investigated “alleged violations of [the fraternity’s] risk management policy and standards of conduct,” according to documents obtained by The Phoenix. The documents don’t specify what the alleged violations were. 

The fraternity was put on probation by the national chapter May 31, 2021 after it “accepted responsibility” for violating alcohol policies, which state the fraternity can’t distribute alcohol without a licensed provider, according to the documents. There was no mention of drugs in the documents. 

The fraternity was still allowed to participate in “fraternal functions” but told to stop providing alcohol at parties if not from a licensed provider, complete online training, attend a leadership conference and submit a plan outlining how the fraternity will prevent future violations, the documents showed. 

Kane said she didn’t know about the national chapter’s investigation and didn’t participate in it in any way. 

The national chapter of the fraternity’s spokesperson told The Phoenix the organization “didn’t receive any reports” of a student being drugged but would have launched an investigation if it had. The spokesperson didn’t respond to follow-up questions about the documents detailing an investigation. The fraternity’s Loyola chapter declined to comment. 

Love said the fraternity wasn’t investigated by Loyola’s Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCRR). Lucchesi didn’t respond to The Phoenix when asked if SAGA was aware of the national chapter’s investigation. 

“If they’re going to be a school sponsored organization, do we need to make it more school sponsored or should we just, like, not have the organization?” Kane said. 

Student leaders tried to handle the situation by asking fraternity members to submit an online form with names of people who had been at the party, but the “methodology was poor,” Stoeckel said. 

“From the start, it was not about her,” Stoeckel said. “It was about getting the frat through it.” 

Tracey Vitchers — the executive director of It’s On Us, an organization that partners with student groups to combat sexual assault on college campuses with educational resources — said universities need to “find a better playbook” for addressing sexual violence within Greek Life. 

Students who participate in Greek Life are more likely to experience and perpetrate sexual misconduct, according to a 2021 study from researchers at the University of Oregon. 

“It should not be this way, that students need to be advocating for their own safety to the degree that they are,” Vitchers said. “But unfortunately, institutions aren’t doing the work right, and so it’s resulting in students having to do the work themselves.”

Lucchesi said fraternities and sororities continue to “take a stand against gender-based sexual violence” by routinely hosting training sessions and providing council leadership with information about how to report incidents. A member of Loyola’s Sorority and Fraternity Life advising team is also on Loyola’s Gender Based Violence Task Force, Lucchesi said. 

Kane said Loyola should be more involved in overseeing Greek Life so that student leaders aren’t responsible for handling situations involving each other’s safety. Instating leadership roles within fraternities and sororities designed to assist students with issues of sexual misconduct and prevention training could also help, Kane said. 

“Loyola likes to pretend that not having houses gets rid of the whole issue,” Kane said. “But fraternities rent out entire floors of apartment buildings and do the same thing they do anywhere else and it involves a culture of drinking, partying and meeting women.” 

‘What’s the point?’ 

Due to her previous experience with OEC, Kane chose not to report the second incident to the university. 

“It was exhausting to do all that before and I was like, ‘What’s the point?’” Kane said. “Especially with it ending the way it did, I knew I had even less evidence this time.” 

Love said its important for students to remember OEC investigations are “only one part of the institution’s larger system of supporting students who experience discrimination and sexual misconduct.” 

“A robust menu of supportive measures is also available – completely irrespective of whether/how a formal complaint is ever filed or resolved – along with prevention training and education,” Love said. 

Loyola’s Wellness Center advocates work directly with people who’ve experienced gender-based violence — regardless of whether they choose to pursue an investigation — to provide emotional support and connect them to medical, legal and university resources. 

“Anyone who wants some support, maybe you’re hearing about something happening at Loyola or elsewhere, even if it’s not happening to you or someone you know and you just want to talk about it, we can absolutely do that for anyone,” said McKenna Rogan — a violence prevention and advocacy specialist at Loyola’s Wellness Center. 

Kane said it was helpful to debrief with a Wellness Center advocate throughout her investigation process, though she still felt alone during online meetings with investigators because advocates typically try not to interfere.

Loyola started participating in the Culture of Respect in February, a two year program, which will include a review of University policies and procedures related to sexual misconduct, The Phoenix reported. 

As Kane prepares to graduate, she said her experience felt like a “wake-up call” that Loyola needs to offer more resources and support to students surrounding sexual misconduct on campus. 

“It’s very disappointing and discouraging that someone could spend half their college experience going to all these meetings, doing all this work, and now that I’m graduating, it’s the same as it was when I came here,” Kane said. “It seems like there’s still a lot more work that needs to be done.” 

Anyone in need of sexual assault resources can call the Loyola Sexual Assault Advocacy line at 773-494-3810. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is also available 24/7 at 800-656-4673.

Featured image by Nicky Andrews | The Phoenix

Kayleigh Padar

Kayleigh Padar