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   from the issue of September 6, 2007

Victim advocate works to increase awareness of campus sexual assaults


One in three college women is sexually assaulted.

More than one in eight female college students have been stalked.

A sexual assault occurs every three minutes in the United States. For many people, these statistics have become familiar over time. Marla Sohl, UNL's victim advocate, hopes that this familiarity with the statistics and issues surrounding these crimes will help create a safer campus and a safer city.

Sohl, who is also a counselor for local nonprofit Voices of Hope, believes that education is key to protecting members of the university community from domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

"We know that students, faculty and staff are experiencing these crimes, whether or not they are telling anyone," Sohl said. "If they know services are available, that may provide enough of an intervention to keep their situations from turning extreme. Our services can keep students involved in these cases from having academic loss, and can also aid in maintaining a safe campus. The more people are aware, the better the campus atmosphere will be."

UNL and Voices of Hope (formerly the Rape/Spouse Abuse Crisis Center) have had a close working relationship for more than 30 years, according to Jan Deeds, assistant director for Student Involvement.

"The Rape Spouse Abuse Crisis Center was started at the UNL Women's Center in the early 1970s. Students who ran the Women's Resource Center (as it was called then) were receiving calls from victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and there was no community resource to refer them to, so the students started the crisis line and it grew from there," Deeds said.

While Voices of Hope operates independently of the university, the agency works closely with the Women's Center, Campus Police and Student Housing. Sohl is available for walk-in appointments Tuesdays from 2-6 p.m. at the Women's Center, and will also meet students and others off campus if they seek a more confidential environment.

"I have worked with faculty, staff and students," Sohl said. "I know that not all of the victims on campus are being served by us; that would be almost unrealistic. But it is important to me that as many people as possible know that services are available. Also, if a faculty or staff member is being disclosed to, they can call us for advice. They do not have to make a direct referral, though that is almost always a good idea. We can also just talk them through our available resources."

In addition to promoting available services, Sohl encourages members of the UNL community to get involved with Voices of Hope as volunteers. A number of the organization's long-standing volunteers, she said, started out answering calls to the crisis line as college students. Volunteers take 34 hours of training, which includes sessions on adult survivors of incest, diversity, stalking, cultural issues, and legal procedures. Trainings are offered three times a year, and men and women of all ages are welcome to participate.

For more information on volunteer opportunities, call the agency's volunteer coordinator at 476-2110. The Voices of Hope crisis line number is 475-7273. On campus, Sohl can be reached at 472-0203.



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Vice chancellor issues alert on possible e-mail threats, campus procedures
Victim advocate works to increase awareness of campus sexual assaults