On-campus sex offense reports quadruple
Women's center attributes rise to greater awareness, support of victims
At Grand Valley State University, the number of reported forcible sexual assaults more than
quadrupled between 2011 and 2012.
According to the Annual Security and Fire Safety report, there were nine reported sexual assaults in
2012, increasing from two in 2011.
However, one incident in 2012 occurred on public property unaffiliated with the GVSU campus, and
another in 2011 was investigated and determined to be a false report.
In previous years, GVSU has seen fewer reports of forcible sexual assaults than Central Michigan
University, Western Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University. However, it’s had the highest
number of on-campus reports for 2012, along with EMU, at eight.
GVSU and Eastern also had the highest number of reported incidents occurring in on-campus
residence halls, which made up 91 percent of all reported incidents at the four schools.
“Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes, if not the most underreported crime,” said
Theresa Rowland, an advocate for awareness of sexual assault at the GVSU Women’s Center.
Eight of the assaults reported at GVSU in 2012 occurred in on-campus residence halls. However, one
of the incidents occurred in 2010 and was not reported until last year.
“Ninety to 95 percent of these crimes go unreported,” Rowland said. “It’s scary to do. It’s hard.
Nationally one in four women and one in 10 men experience sexual assault at some point during their
Forcible sexual assault includes any sexual act done forcibly, against a person’s will or against a
person incapable of giving consent—including rape, sodomy, sexual assault with an object, and
“Grand Valley continues to be safe in a number of ways,” said Capt. Brandon DeHaan, assistant
director of the Department of Public Safety. “Students just need to be aware, alert and responsible for
themselves and their community.”
DeHaan said more than 90 percent of victims of sexual assault on campus know the perpetrator from
a social gathering, or they are dating. In addition, in more than 90 percent of the occurrences, both
the victim and suspect were consuming alcohol.
“Alcohol can be used as a tool or even a weapon in these instances,” DeHaan said. “If you go out to a
social gathering with friends, then return with the same friends and the same number of friends. Don’t
leave anyone behind.”
Tracing the increase
In 2010, the Women’s Center was awarded the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant of
$265,000. The center partnered with the Grand Valley Police Department to raise awareness about the
realities of sexual assault, educate the campus community, and improve the reporting process.
Over the past three years, the center has used the grant to train all campus police officers, judicial
hearing officers, Counseling Center staff, resident assistants and transition leaders.
“I think what is getting attention is that (the number of reported sexual assaults) was very low, and
then it jumped to nine in 2012, so I think the attention is being drawn to why did it jump,” said
Rowland, who is also the VAWA grant coordinator. “We fully anticipated the increase in reports when
we received the grant. Because we are raising awareness, we now have a campus-wide response that
is supportive of victims and survivors. I think victims are feeling more comfortable reporting the
crime. They know who to go to. They know that there are options.”
The grant was recently renewed this year through 2016, and the Women’s Center will receive an
additional $280,000 to continue educational outreach programs at GVSU.
In addition to the Women’s Center and the University Counseling Center, GVSU has several programs
geared toward raising awareness about sexual assault. On Oct. 11, Men in Action will host a
conference to discuss a male-dominant culture and gender-based violence.
“In a nutshell it means analyzing masculine ideals and masculine norms and how they affect our
behaviors, our relationships and our actions,” said Trey Sumner, a senior at GVSU interning with the
VAWA grant. “As men, we have a responsibility to develop a masculine ideal that allows us to be
providers and contributors to our community and families instead of trying to be dominators and
conquerors of our environment.”
In another campaign, the Clothesline Project will give survivors of violence or friends of survivors the
chance to create a T-shirt sharing their story from Oct. 14 through Oct. 18. The shirts will be
displayed in the Kirkhof Center, the Campus Recreation lobby and the DeVos Center student study
area. Shirts will be displayed at the Meijer Campus student lounge from Oct. 21 to Oct. 25.
“Sexual assault is not a women’s issue, it’s a community issue, and everyone needs to play a positive
role in preventing it and ending it,” Rowland said. “The best way to support someone who has
experienced sexual assault is to believe them. You’re not the judge, the jury or the investigator. All
you need to do is listen and provide support, offer to walk with them to a campus resource like the
Women’s Center or Counseling Center.”