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Ribbons bring awareness to resources for sexual assault

April 12, 2018 GMT

Multiple law enforcement vehicles were tagged in North Platte on Wednesday — but for a good reason.

Members of Lincoln County’s Sexual Assault Response Team tied teal ribbons on patrol vehicles to signal Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Becky Hoaglund, executive director of the Community Domestic Violence Intervention Program, first stopped at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and later the North Platte Police Department. Wendy Ward, director of patient safety and risk management at Great Plains Health, joined her, as well as members of each agency. On Friday, members of the team plan to tag Nebraska State Patrol vehicles.

All involved said the teal ribbons bring awareness both to sexual assault in the community and the resources available to fight it.

Ward said sexual assault kits are available at GPH, as well as “Jane Doe” kits that can be used to collect evidence without the survivor’s identity being released, and without the survivor reporting his or her assault to law enforcement.

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In October 2016, it became federally illegal to destroy sexual assault kits before the state’s statute of limitation expires; Nebraska has no statute of limitations for sexual assault. The sexual assault survivor can later change his or her mind about pressing charges and the sexual assault kit is available to re-examine, Ward said.

Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Newton pointed to multiple resources in the community — Bridge of Hope Child Advocacy Center, Rape and Domestic Abuse Program, CDVIP and law enforcement.

He encouraged residents to report sexual assault and “let us go investigate it.”

“We want to make sure that we’re collaborating with our community,” Ward said, adding that she hopes the awareness initiative encourages people to report sexual assault in a timely manner “and get the help they need.”

When asked if police officers knew about the ribbon tagging, Lt. Rich Hoaglund laughed and said, “They will.”

He said the ribbons serve as a reminder as much for the officers as they do for survivors. He said that he hoped the ribbons would “give (survivors) the support they need to come forward.”

“Get the person out of society,” he said, “but also give (the survivor) the break they need to move on with their lives.”