By Jared Kennedy
The University of Nebraska at Omaha has reported several cases of sexual misconduct this year.
The University takes this matter seriously, and has a full time investigator for these kinds of offenses. In addition to its rapid response in helping victims, investigating the allegations, and ascertaining what wrongdoing occurred the University takes a vested interest in educating students on sexual misconduct and prevention via online Title IX training and other means.
Charlotte Russell is the assistant to the chancellor for access, equity and diversity. As one of her duties she coordinates efforts in investigating reported sexual misconduct on campus.
According to Russell sexual harassment is an umbrella term. She says her work covers everything under that umbrella and sexual violence is just one aspect of it.
“Rape or sexual assault, stalking, exhibitionism…it’s a number of things,” Russell said.
According to Karen Falconer Al-Hindi, director of Women’s and Gender Studies at UNO, faculty members are required to report sexual misconduct cases to the University.
“Confidential resources are the counselors in the counseling center,” Falconer Al-Hindi said.
To clarify, if students want to talk to someone about something that happened, but don’t want the case to be reported to the university for investigation — the only place they can speak to someone with full confidentiality is the counseling center.
Russell says schools are required to have an avenue for students to report without having it go through an official channel.
“Those are called confidential reporting options,” Russell said. “You can talk to the counselors…we also now have two trained WCA [Womens Center for Advancement] trained advocates on campus. Those are people who do not have to report.”
Russell says it is important that students have confidential resources, but also the obligation to report is valuable.
“How are we going to know unless the community lets us know,” Russell said.
Falconer Al-Hindi says reporting sexual misconduct hasn’t always been so simple.
“In the past the path for reporting wasn’t entirely clear,” Falconer Al-Hindi said. “There may not have been enough attention to meeting the needs of victims.”
Falconer Al-Hindi says in sexual assaults and harassment often actions are being committed by a small number of serial offenders, rather than a vast number of first time offenders.
“Sexual assault is buy and large not a date gone bad, it’s not a misunderstanding” Falconer Al-Hindi said. “It’s sexual predators and large events with alcohol and drugs likely involved.”
Falconer Al-Hindi recognizes that sometimes students who fall victim to a sexual attack may not want to report because they feel it is too late to do anything, but she says it is still valuable to report.
“Reporting later is important because often these are serial predators… You may not catch them for what they did before, but you can catch them in their actions now,” Falconer Al-Hindi said.
UNO encourages students to take online title IX training and get educated on how to be an active bystander. Falconer Al-Hindi says it’s important to overcome the crowd bias against intervening.
“There are different ways to be an active bystander,” Falconer Al-Hindi said. “Interrupt. Get someone else to help.”
UNO has a full time investigator on staff and students can officially report any sexual misconduct to Charlotte Russell in Room 205 of the Eppley Administration Building.
The University takes such great care with these issues that her office is secondarily accessible from a back staircase in order to maintain student privacy and confidentiality. Russell says at any time during an investigation a victim student can choose to not take the matter any further and disconnect from the process.