Supporting Survivors: Reactions to UNL’s protest and how to access resources as a survivor of sexual assault

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Hannah Michelle Bussa
NEWS EDITOR

Students hold hands outside of the FIJI fraternity house after an alleged sexual assault
Students holding hands outside of FIJI house at UNL on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Change.org petition.

Content warning: sexual assault, rape

Students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln gathered on campus yesterday to protest an alleged sexual assault that occurred in the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity (FIJI) house late Monday night. FIJI has a history of sexual assault allegations.

A petition was made calling for FIJI to face consequences for the sexual assault allegations tied to their organization. University of Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Greene announced today that FIJI will be closed while the investigation is ongoing.

In a press release, Green said: “The Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) fraternity at UNL is currently under probation for previous violations of university policy. We are closing the fraternity house and suspending operations of the Fiji chapter while this investigation is ongoing, due to potential violations of that probation. This is the responsible action to take for everyone involved.” 

The Association of Students of the University of Nebraska (ASUN) released a statement yesterday that began, “As leaders of the student body at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln we express our support of and solidarity with survivors of sexual assault.”

UNO’s Student Government released a statement today as well. It can be found here.

UNO’s Student Body President Maeve Hemmer said: “I am in full support and solidarity with ASUN’s statement. Our campuses must be a place where students can learn, thrive, and be protected from harm.”

Support Resources for UNO Students

News of sexual assault can trigger emotions and memories in survivors. Students at UNO have access to resources on campus.

UNO’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available on campus in 101 H&K, which is on the first floor on the right, just past the counters at the entryway. They take walk-in appointments Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

CAPS is also available 24/7 at 402-554-2409.  

CAPS offers confidential services, and CAPS counselors are not mandatory reporters. CAPS can help connect students with campus and community resources.

UNO’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC) also has four Nebraska-certified Victim Advocates. They are a confidential resource and can work with resources on campus, like CAPS, Title IX, Housing, Public Safety, and the Accessibility Services Center when appropriate for a survivor. 

Students can go to these Victim Advocates for support. If students are finding themselves triggered by recent events and falling behind in school, the GSRC Victim Advocates can support students with accommodations in classwork.   

UNO’s Resources in the Event of an Assault

If a UNO student has experienced a sexual assault, they can connect with CAPS and the Victim Advocates at the GSRC. Neither CAPS nor the GSRC will result in any criminal charges or university-related sanctions unless the survivor chooses to pursue that.

CAPS and the GSRC can assist in directing survivors to multiple resources, both on campus and in the community, including medical services and more.

Reporting for UNO Students 

Students can also choose to report.

For incidents on campus, students can report to the Title IX Coordinator. This will not result in criminal charges but could result in university-related sanctions.

The Title IX Coordinator can be contacted by phone at 402-554-2120, by email at sweil@unomaha.edu or equity@unomaha.edu, or by completing this form.

Students can also choose to report to law enforcement agencies, which could result in criminal charges. Victim Advocates at the GSRC, as well as UNO Public Safety, can assist students in reporting. 

Responses to the Protest at UNL and Being in Solidarity with UNL Students

While students gathered to protest the FIJI house, some students have said people need to do more than protest.

One of those students was Kiara Williams, a UNL senior majoring in human development and family science. She is also a grassroots organizer in both Lincoln and Omaha. She said the survivor of the assault late Monday night was not aware of the protest or involved in its organization.

“That is detrimental in and of itself to do things on behalf of the victim without their say so,” she said.

Williams said the assault was not something anyone on UNL’s campus should be surprised by, due to the number of sexual assaults on campus and the “extensive history of sexual violence and assault as well as racism” from members of FIJI.

“Despite the entire UNL campus – students, faculty, and staff included – knowing how dangerous [FIJI] is, consequences are never given to them and students are put right back in danger by this school’s gross neglect and mishandling of these cases,” Williams said.

Williams said she admired the amount of people wanting to organize and protest, she saw problems in how the organizing was being done.

“Last night was reactionary, and we know that in order to see adequate changes take place and to actually shift our culture in any way, reactionary behavior is the absolute last thing we should be partaking in,” she said.

As an organizer of protests for Black lives, Williams pointed to her experiences, asking students not to wear themselves out protesting without backing it up with other actions. She said this will let the cycle of sexual violence continue. 

She said this needs to be an opportunity to begin discussions, work and action on UNL’s campus to eradicate rape culture as a whole.

Of the protest yesterday, Williams asked, “What is productive about this? What justice does this bring this individual? In what way does this raise the consciousness of the masses in order to adequately take action behind this issue that has been and continues to plague our campus?”

Williams asked students to be part of action to actually bring change to the community and campus. She said she is working on organizing within her ties to UNL and UNL’s Greek community.

“Be on the lookout for ways to get involved and support the organizing surrounding this,” she said.

Grace O’Keeffe, a senior English major at UNL, said UNO students can be in solidarity with UNL students.

“Share the petition and email Ronnie Green and the Board of Regents to demand accountability,” O’Keeffe said. (Ronnie Green’s email is chancellorgreen@unl.edu.)

O’Keeffe suggested students promote UNO’s Women and Gender Equity Center, donate to the Omaha Women’s Fund, demand improvements to UNO’s consent web-training for all students, and promote RAINN’s sexual assault hotline (800-656-HOPE).

She also stressed the importance of individual education through book, Ted Talks and podcasts.

“Individual education is maybe most important,” O’Keeffe said. “I recommend Roxanne Gay’s writing and the ‘This American Life’ episode ‘Five Women.’”

Support the Survivor

The survivor of Monday night’s assault is reported to be in recovery. A fundraiser is being set up to support her in the recovery process. UNO the Gateway will include the link to this fundraiser once it is released.

Other Resources 

For non-UNO students in Omaha, the Women’s Center for Advancement has a 24-hour hotline for those needing a listening ear or help. They can be reached at 402-345-7273.

RAINN is a nationwide resource that is available for those needing support relating to sexual assault. Their hotline number is 1-800-656-4673. They also have a live chat option online at rainn.org.  

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