A Fort Hays State University student was the victim of a sexual assault incident on the weekend of Aug. 22 off of university grounds.
Due to this unfortunate incident, Hays Police Department and FHSU Campus have alerted their associated groups to heighten their watch.
Keegan Nichols, assistant vice president for Student Affairs and Title IX coordinator, presented the manner in which FHSU handles such cases.
“Any time an incident is brought forward with the sexual assault our first and foremost (concern) is making sure the victim gets their resources for health,” Nichols said. “The second aspect is to make sure that the campus is safe.”
Campus decided to take quick action in regards to the most recent incident.
“Since we do not know who the alleged perpetrator is, we thought it was severe enough to send out a warning to the campus the student e-mail that went out about the sexual misconduct that happened this weekend (Aug. 22 to 24),” Nichols said. “We sent out that same note to parents. We gave some tips on how to keep yourself safe, and we also printed out copies and gave it to RAs (Residential Assistants) to talk about in the dorms.”
Since students’ well-being is the primary focus, FHSU established partnerships with local organizations to assist any student who reports their case.
“We call an Options advocate and we have them come over and meet with the student,” Nichols said. “They will also take the student in to Hays Med and have them evaluated by a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examination) nurse. When they come back, we make sure that a counselor is ready to see them. We make sure that their rights aren’t taken away and they have the power to decide what to do next.”
The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) at Haysmed provides confidential examinations that are documented by photos and medical procedures.
“There is no charge to the victim when they do the SANE exam; the county where the crime occurred will take that fee,” said Carol Groen, manager of Accredations for SANE.
While groups take action to ensure the well being of the victim and students of FHSU, the Hays Police Department carries out the investigative procedure.
“We try to put the victim’s needs first,” said Dave Bunger, Hays Police Department detective. “We try to get them professional counselling and take care of their medical needs first and foremost. Also, we try to get them involved with the county attorney relatively quickly.”
“We take statements from everybody involved and try to corroborate any of the statements with the physical evidence, “Bunger said. “(Then) We catalog all of that and send it the KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigation). Often times there are two sides to the story, and we always take an impartial view.”
Nichols stands behind the improvement in documenting occurrences and encourages reporting incidents to the responsible authorities.
“I think the incident itself is reflective of what has happened for many, many years,” Nichols said. “I think our reporting efforts have gone up as more people step up and challenge each other. Our hope is as our culture changes and as more awareness comes around this issue, more people stand up through bystander intervention. We want people to report this. We want a more accurate picture so we can properly address this issue. ”
She urges victims to report these crimes because of the dangers that can result from perpetrators
“People who commit hiatus crimes like this are usually repeat offenders averaging between 15-18 times,” Nichols said. “That’s not okay behavior.”
She emphasized the mindset of offenders.
“A sexual assault is not about sex,” Nichols said. “It is about control, about power, it’s about violence.”
If you need help, the Kelly Center is available to students Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. when classes are in session during the fall and spring semesters. To contact the Kelly Center their number is (785) 628-4401.