Dr. LeAnn Obrecht
director of Counseling Care, 308.865.8248; Ismael Torres, health educator, 308.865.8092

The University of Nebraska at Kearney has been awarded a U.S. Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women grant for $900,000, which is being funded over three years.

The award, a renewal grant, was one of only 30 in the nation selected for funding. In 2010, 226 agencies across the nation applied for the original grant. Of those, 64 were funded.

“For this grant renewal round, only current recipients of the 2010 award could apply, and of the 64 who were eligible, only 30 received awards,” said Dr. LeAnn Obrecht, project director and UNK director of Counseling and Health Care/Women’s Center. UNK was the only institution of higher education among the grant recipients.

The grant, titled “Building Victim Services, Prevention and a Coordinated Community Response in Rural Central Nebraska,” will help fund services for victims of sexual assault, stalking and relationship violence in the following five counties—Buffalo, Dawson, Franklin, Harlan and Kearney.

The grant is a collaborative venture with campus and community partners. UNK campus partners include the Counseling and Health Care/Women’s Center, Police & Parking Services, Residence Life, Multicultural Affairs, Sponsored Programs, Dean for the Division of Student Affairs and Vice Chancellor for Business & Finance.

Community partners include the Buffalo County Attorney, Buffalo County Sheriff, Kearney Police Chief, Family Advocacy Network, S.A.F.E. Center, Victim/Witness Unit in Kearney and the Grand Island/Kearney Probation Officer.

“In each of the three years of grant funding, there will be persons from among the seven community-wide entities who will be sent to a nationally acclaimed, multidisciplinary conference on sexual assault, stalking and relationship violence,” Dr. Obrecht said. “The intent is to attend this multidisciplinary conference as a team, thereby fostering teamwork and collegiality back home in our communities.

“The grant funding is enabling the UNK Women’s Center, in collaboration with The S.A.F.E. Center, to pull together the (formerly) fragmented network into a cohesive, integrated and comprehensive effort,” she said.

“Further, the grant will improve and expand timely, specialized victim services and mental health counseling at both centers, with an increased focus on serving the surrounding five-county service area and offering services after business hours.”

Among the improved services for victims is the development of a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) comprised of campus and community members. Among the team members are the UNK associate director of Health Care, who has been trained as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (or a SANE nurse), and a UNK police officer. The police officer serves as a lead investigator as well as a prevention specialist. Both have received specialized training through the grants.

Also, a prevention educator graduate assistant has been added to the UNK Office of Multicultural Affairs to reach students of color, and a third, half-time counselor will be added to the two full-time licensed professional counselors who now serve the UNK Women’s Center and The S.A.F.E. Center.

“This third counselor will see clients after hours and also in each of the five counties,” Dr. Obrecht said. “The grant funds will provide training of these counselor specialists in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT), a cutting edge counseling approach.”

Also, through the new grant, the Family Advocacy Network (FAN) will receive a new, $20,000 colposcopy unit, which Dr. Obrecht describes as “…a key piece of equipment for gathering sexual assault forensic evidence.”

While victim services are addressed by the grant, prevention is also a key goal, Dr. Obrecht said.

“Each semester, a community-wide event will be offered to educate about sexual assault, stalking and relationship violence,” she said. “Among the presentations will be “Sex Signals,” “Can I Kiss You?” and “Response Ability: Being an Every | Day Hero.”

In addition to the educational events, a communications specialist will be hired to educate using sustained multimedia campaigns that reach not only the campus and the community but across all five counties.

“The goal is to promote the safety and well-being of women in rural central Nebraska by creating and implementing strategies to increase awareness, and prevent sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking,” Dr. Obrecht said.