Letter to the editor: Response to sexual assault

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To the editor and campus community,

Much of the discussion surrounding the recent off-campus sexual assault has been whether or not the university should’ve notified students right away. To answer that question, allow me to quote GVPD Captain Brandon DeHaan in a Lanthorn article regarding the on-campus sexual assault last winter: “The university believes there’s an obligation that our federal staff, faculty, and students are aware of the dangers that are out there. If there’s a crime, we relay that information to our community if it meets the criteria for a timely warning notice, … (which is) if there’s a continuing threat to the campus community and is an incident of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, sexual assault, or other major crimes deemed necessary” (quote taken from the April 10, 2014 issue of the Lanthorn).

Now that we’re all in agreement that yes, the university failed us and the victim, there are three things that bother me regarding this particular case.

1. When the university was cornered by Fox 17, they first blamed Ottawa County for not releasing information. However, the detective on the case met with members of the university and gave them the green light to notify its students. GV chose not to.

2. When Fox 17 continued to press the university and Ottawa County for answers, Ottawa County actually blamed the victim for being hard to contact. This is despite the fact that the incident was reported immediately after it took place, making it easier to believe the victim’s side of the story than either police department involved. Throw in the fact that the press had to get involved to get any announcement in the first place, and the credibility of both of those law enforcement entities is in question.

3. By choosing to ignore sexual assaults, the university is simply perpetuating the rape culture that they publicly stand against. Power is stripped from victims and handed to their attackers. When victims feel as if they aren’t going to be taken seriously or will be ignored by the university, they’re much less likely to report the crime in the first place. If attackers believe that it’s going to go unreported and uninvestigated, they’re more likely to commit the crime.

It’s time for change, GV. A change in policy, a change in culture and a change in action. If we have to go to the national news to get the attention necessary to force that change, then so be it. This story isn’t over yet, and I’m not intimidated into allowing the university to walk over the students it’s supposed to serve and protect.

Andrew Brown

GVSU student