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FF12: Former Bethel student speaks out about alleged harassment by donor

Published: Nov. 19, 2019 at 9:54 PM CST
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A former Bethel College student who triggered

is speaking out so other potential victims know it’s okay to come forward.

“I was fed up with his behavior and I knew it could escalate,” says Rebecca Schrag.

As FactFinder 12 first reported last week, North Newton police say multiple women are coming forward with accusations of sexual battery after the arrest of Ted Muller, 84.

Mueller was arrested in October, accused of sexually assaulting a woman at his North Newton home on Aug. 1, 2018.

Since our first story aired, Schrag wanted to speak out about her case to help other victims encourage Bethel to better help victims.

Schrag says she would see Mueller, a top tier donor to the college and volunteer with a Bethel affiliated program, inside the campus coffee shop. She says she experienced and witnessed what she describes as verbal sexual harassment directed at her and employees.

“He would say things like when they would bend down about them being on their knees and their bodies and how they looked.”

Schrag decided to report the behavior after an incident in 2017.

“He made comments about my appearance. He said he wanted to change the way I looked so that would be more attractive to him like he was attracted to his wife. He said he was attracted to blondes and I recently dyed my hair pink. He did touch my back and lean in close.”

Schrag reported to Bethel's Title IX coordinator. What she didn't know then was it was the second Title IX investigation involving Mueller.

The first, filed the year prior, was for what Bethel describes in a letter to staff and students as a verbal comment. The other, Schrag’s case, was for unwanted touching and suggestive comments.

Following the first Title IX in 2016, Bethel says it denied Mueller access to student information which he had through his volunteer work with a Bethel affiliated program called KIPCOR. Although the school denied access to student information, it allowed Mueller on campus and he continued to volunteer.

Bethel says Schrag’s case was concluded at her request. She says there's a reason. Bethel's Title IX committee wanted her to sit down and meet with Mueller. She tells us she wasn't going to allow that to happen.

“They decided to do mediation between me and Ted. I didn't think that was appropriate. I wouldn't have felt comfortable even with the mediator with the power difference. I didn't think we had anything to work out.”

North Newton Police Chief Randy Jordan told us last week that some women he’d talked to didn’t feel comfortable reporting to the school.

“What we all want is for victims to feel safe and that someone is going to believe their story,” says Jordan.

Schrag echoes that. She says it’s why she decided to talk about her case. She says her goal is not to Hurt Bethel, but to make it better.

“I would like to see something different. I want them to take action. If everything is okay it's because people feel safe to report things that are bad and talk to you about bad things. If you can't talk about it, things will go under the rug and that's scary,” says Schrag.

Chief Jordan says the investigations have now been turned over to the county attorney for review.

Bethel is not responding to questions by FactFinder 12, but did issue the following statement:

Bethel College was founded in 1887 by those who believed the word of Jesus Christ. As an institution rooted in Christian theology, we do not tolerate sexual violence in any form. We are here to be active listeners to survivors, to remind them of resources on campus, and to assist survivors on their healing journey. We believe in the victims of sexual violence. When high-profile sexual assault cases are in the news, survivors come forward. We are supportive and grateful for the voices of victims of sexual violence speaking up. Victims have spent years in silence and are now empowered to speak out. Bethel is pausing and listening. There are no acceptable levels in abuse and we recognize the pain all sexual violence victims experience. We are here to foster a culture of respect and safety for survivors of sexual violence. Bethel is growing along with many institutions and it can seem like a slow process. However, the security and well-being of Bethel students, faculty, and staff is our highest priority. While we know there is always work to be done, Bethel is proud to offer the following: 1) Bethel has an affirmative consent policy. It is available in the student handbook which is on the Title IX section of our website. Affirmative Consent: Consent is clear permission (“Yes”). Consent to one form of sexual activity should not, and cannot, be taken as consent to any other sexual activity. Consent cannot be inferred. Individuals who consent to sexual activity must be able to fully understand their actions. A person incapacitated by alcohol or drugs, asleep, physically impaired or unable to communicate in clear and understandable words or actions is incapable of giving consent or mutual agreement. 2) Bethel has an on-campus counselor, Jill Hoopes, Director of Student Wellness. 3) Bethel has an on-campus Title IV coordinator, Bethany Charlsen. 4) Bethel hosts Safehope on campus every week for one-on-one support. Safehope is on campus Tuesdays from 12:00-2:00 PM. Safehope is the domestic violence/sexual assault advocacy center for Harvey County. 5) Wesley Medical Center and St. Joseph in Wichita both have nurses trained in SANE/SART (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner/ Sexual Assault Response Team) and are located only 30 minutes from Bethel College . 6) We have had two students attend a “Train the Trainer” session last year. Since then, four additional students have been trained to facilitate "Bringing in the Bystander." Altogether, 220 students have received the "Bringing in the Bystander" training since it's implementation. We are reviewing new student facilitators in the spring to prepare for the graduation of current facilitators. 7) Bethel will hold three separate listening sessions for students to express their concern regarding sexual violence and on-campus safety. The administration is here to listen and will continue to reevaluate current policies in place. We ensure all students, regardless of their gender identity and expression, have equal access to education. Within guidelines of Title IX, we respond to all reports of sexual violence. This is not a replacement for reporting to the police; it is a parallel option for survivors based in civil rights--rather than criminal--law. Bethel takes up every report for adjudication and responds according to the victim’s wishes. We understand that in the past that there were fewer avenues for reporting on-campus sexual violence. With the implementation of Title IV in 2014, we are seeing more students feeling a sense of safety to report sexual violence. And, with that, Bethel is striving to handle each case with sensitivity and to take action swiftly to ensure a safe campus. We are able to handle survivors’ needs and focus on the victim and to make sure they have everything they need in order to continue their education. Bethel College is in compliance with both Title IX and Clery act guidelines, as determined by a recent visit from the Higher Learning Commission (our accrediting agency). We meet or exceed what is required by federal law. As we look to ourselves to be leaders in helping end sexual violence, we believe there is always room for improvement. We will continue to move forward. Sharing an experience of sexual assault can be really hard, especially if it’s for the first time. If you have been a victim of sexual violence, please know Bethel is here to support you and be a healing resource for justice and safety.

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