Members of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department shared how they define sexual assault and support survivors of sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

Sgt. Margot Nason said sexual assault is defined as any type of unwanted sexual contact, including anything from fondling to rape.

Cpt. Aaron Pembleton said UNLPD handles sexual assault and sexual misconduct cases like other criminal investigations. Pembleton said officers would try to interview anyone involved in the case, gather evidence and investigate it to the fullest extent. 

Since survivors of sexual assault face trauma, UNLPD officers may take some additional time between when the incident occured and when they try to get a full statement from that person, according to Pembleton.

Nason said UNLPD handles sexual assault and sexual misconduct cases with a non-judgemental perspective.

“We aim not to communicate in any way that a victim is to blame for the crime, and the officers are aware and cognitive of the fact that we play a significant role in the victim’s willingness to cooperate in the investigation and their ability to cope with the emotional and psychological after effects of the crime,” Nason said.

In the last five years, Pembleton said the average sexual assault reports UNLPD recieved was in the mid-teens. Pembleton said there was not a clear trend of sexual assault reports to UNLPD in the last five years.

In 2020, there were 15 sexual assaults reported and in 2019, there were 17, according to Pembleton. In 2018, there were 16 sexual assaults reported. In 2017, there were 11 and in 2016, there were 14.

To help support survivors of sexual assault and sexual misconduct, UNLPD partners with other entities on campus, like the Center for Advocacy, Response & Education and Title IX, according to Pembleton.

“We have a great relationship with CARE that’s on campus and they would probably be one of our main support entities that we would utilize,” Pembleton said. “Connecting the parties involved with these entities on campus and then doing our due diligence in the case and investigating it to the fullest, the best possible way that we can, that’s probably the biggest thing that we can do at the police department.”

Pembleton said it is important for sexual assaults and sexual misconduct to be reported to UNLPD because awareness of crimes is key for officers to catch perpetrators. 

“If we don’t know about it, we can’t do anything about it,” Pembleton said.

Nason said reporting sexual assaults and sexual misconduct not only gets justice and the desired outcome for the victim themselves, but it can also mitigate any future risk towards other people by the same perpetrator.

“We are not [tolerant] in any way of any sort of sexual misconduct,” Nason said. “It’s important to report, not only for the criminal side of it, but for any sort of mental or physical healing. They can come forward so they can get the resources they need.”