Bill aims to improve how campuses handle sexual violence reports

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- In Nebraska, college students who are victims of sexual violence may soon be guaranteed more help on campus.

LB 702 calls on all post-secondary schools to put procedures in place that support victims and ensure due process.

Merideth Lierk is the associate director of the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center at Creighton University. She spends a lot of time with students who are dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault, dating violence, and other sexual offenses.

"People can come here, they can have someone who supports them, who's a professional in the field, who understands what they're going through and who's really going to walk side-by-side with them regardless of what they choose," Lierk said.

Some lawmakers say all colleges and universities should be taking these active measures.

LB 702 would require all post-secondary institutions to clearly outline a procedure for students to report sexual violence and begin investigations within 21 days.

Walking people through the procedure is a large part of what Lierk does. She helps students, “report to the police, help people report to the university under Title IV; accompanies individuals to medical appointments, including forensic exams for medical attention and forensic collection,” she said.

LB 702 would also require schools to team up with a community organization. Creighton already has such an agreement with the Women's Center for Advancement.

"If a student doesn't feel comfortable reporting, and utilizing those resources that are on campus they can utilize our resources and be away from campus,” said Elizabeth Power of the WCA.

Though she didn't speak directly about the bill, Lierk said she clearly believes in providing support to students.

"Having confidential advocacy centers on campuses is an incredible benefit to students who access the services," Power said. "There's nothing like having an experience of victimization and going through it alone."

According to the National Sexual Violence Research Center, 20 to 25 percent of college women — and 15 percent of college men — are victims of forced sex during their time in college.