Five years later, Anna* said she still deals with the emotional pain of that night and the investigation that followed, while her perpetrator faces no setbacks.
It was April of Anna’s freshman year, and she was already struggling with college life. She had been working on the tech crew of a UNL-affiliated play and attended an end-of-show house party.
At the party, she said she and other cast and crew members drank and celebrated. She was hanging out with a guy she liked, and he invited her to stay at the house since it was a long drive back to Lincoln.
The two headed to an upstairs room where they kissed, she said, but he continued pressuring her to do more. Eventually, he forced himself onto her.
After talking to a friend the next day, she said she realized she had been assaulted. She headed to the hospital for a rape kit and reported her case to the Lincoln Police Department. The next week, she informed a Title IX responsible employee of her assault, and an investigation through the university began.
The process of working with the Title IX Office and Title IX coordinator Tami Strickman felt overly cut and dry, she said.
“It was very impersonal. And it felt really, really difficult to go talk to [Strickman] every time that I had to,” she said. “Every email exchange that we had was very clinical … It did not make me feel welcome, as a victim of something.”
Anna said she also felt like unnecessary blame was placed on her about the situation, which included questioning her judgment since she had been drinking.
“I almost felt like they were blaming me for like, ‘Well, you were in this situation, couldn’t you have just gotten up and left?’ sort of thing. Or, ‘Could you have made a better decision if you weren’t intoxicated?’” she said.
It wasn’t until July and the semester was over that Anna was informed through an email that “no sanction was determined appropriate or necessary” for her case, she said. The email explained that she and her perpetrator gave different accounts of what happened, and using a more likely than not standard of proof, it could not be concluded that the Student Code of Conduct was violated.
According to Strickman, investigating sexual misconduct cases is difficult, especially when they occur off campus and there may not be any witnesses.
“Even if an assault occurs, let's say at 1 a.m., we really want to backtrack and move forward in terms of all of the surrounding circumstances,” Strickman said. “So, we will take all of that information, try to almost relive the situation and then determine whether or not there's enough information to show that there's been a policy violation.”
Since Anna had also gone to LPD with her case, she worked with an officer there, which she said was a better experience.
“It felt like [the officer] was working hard to help me get something accomplished,” Anna said.
She said LPD also decided it could not draw conclusions from the case, which surprised the officer she had been working with. A higher-ranking officer decided not to prosecute, Anna said, even though the department had a phone call from the alleged rapist admitting the assault and Anna’s rape kit was never tested.
“[The officer] basically said that it would be too hard to prove to a court that it was assault because I had agreed to previous bits of intimate interactions with my rapist before he assaulted me,” she said.
Anna’s friend Bridget*, a former UNL student, was with her throughout the process. She said it was surprising nothing was concluded in Anna’s case since her perpetrator admitted to the assault.
“It was very interesting to watch, because Title IX, you're assuming that they're going to be looking out for your best interest,” Bridget said. “But in a situation where ... there weren't two sides, there was like, a really unified one story, and they still didn't do anything about it.”
Anna’s perpetrator ended up leaving UNL and continued with his career as planned, she said.
“I've reported, and nothing happened from it,” she said. “It makes me emotional to know that he's still out there, not having to account for what happened. He can start with what he had planned to do, like what his life is, and continue it just the same — but not with the same emotional consequences that happened to me.”
*Due to safety concerns, some of the survivors The Daily Nebraskan interviewed chose not to be named. The pseudonyms of these individuals are noted with an asterisk on first reference.
Editors’ Note: If you or someone you know has had an experience with the Title IX office you’d like to share with The Daily Nebraskan, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is part of a Title IX series. Click here for a table of contents.