Reported Sexual Assault at UNK Campus Has Officials Advising Students

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Kearney, NE After a reported sexual assault on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus, officials are urging students to be careful and aware especially at night.

UNK officials said the reported sexual assault happened last week and campus police turned the investigation over to the Buffalo County Attorney. Calls to the attorney's office by 10/11 have not been returned.

The UNK Women's Center said they helped the victim after the incident. They said they are happy this victim came forward because many don't, mostly because they feel responsible for allowing the attack to happen.

Women's Center Director LeAnn Obrecht said these assaults happen in college because for many its the first time they're away from home and it can happen in Kearney because many students are from rural areas where they know everyone and feel they can trust anyone.

"1 to 4 or 5 sexual assaults happen to women on a college campus, whether you're in Kearney, California, or Kentucky," said Obrecht. "The trouble is if they don't address it and get some sort of support it will come back to really hit them later at some point when they least expect it."

Obrecht also said men can be vulnerable to sexual assault as well and many times female victims call male friends they can trust, so it's important for men to be just as educated on sexual assault.

Students received this alert on last Monday: "On Monday March 31, 2014 it was reported to UNK Police that a sexual assault occurred in a residence on campus. The subjects were acquaintances and reportedly met through social media. This incident is currently being investigated by University Police."

Even before that alert went out, female students said there are times at night when they feel uneasy walking alone.

Sophomore Payton Prall said, "During the night, I guess it's not too bad because there's people out quite often, but I do get a little uneasy if I'm by myself."

So the UNK Women's Center spreads tips to students on how to stay safe.

Obrecht said, "Always stay by your drink. If you're meeting someone new, then meet initially in a public place until you get to know each other a lot better. Always be around other people, go to functions with other women and come home together."

But it's not always in party situations that people feel nervous. Sometimes it's just walking back to your room from the car or library.

"I usually talk on the phone to someone like my mom or a friend," said Prall.

Freshman Brittyn Munster added, "I do the same thing and once I get back to my room I always check in with a friend or something."

The Women's Center said that's a good plan, or you can use the free Safe Walk Program to get an escort by campus police.

The Women's Center said even all the preparations may not stop an attacker. That's why it's important to know what to do next if you've been sexually assaulted.

The #1 thing to do after an assault it to report it. Obrecht said it's the best way to get the power back that the attacker took from you.

She said, "The Women's Center stands ready and we have an on call system and also the Women's Shelter here in Kearney is the safe center and they have a 24 hour hotline as well. The police are always ready and able."

To help victims, UNK applied for, and received, a $1.2 million rural grant to develop a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) made up of staff and off campus authorities.