The weighty outcomes of reporting sexual assault

GV Lanthorn Editorial

GV Lanthorn Editorial

While living in the #MeToo era, more and more people feel empowered to use their voice and stand up for themselves when they are assaulted and are feeling more safe to be vocal about their past experiences. 

Law enforcement officials, schools and authority figures everywhere are taking sexual violence claims far more seriously than they used to, even in recent years, and reputable establishments know they will be lynched if they don’t appropriately address allegations of this nature. 

The fact that more victims/survivors feel liberated now and are able to come forward and hold their abusers accountable is undoubtedly a great thing. The more victims/survivors who come forward, the more abusers who are held responsible for their actions and justice can be brought to the victims/survivors. 

Reporting is important. The outcome of reporting an incidence of sexual violence can affect the abuser’s life long-term. Jail or prison time, misdemeanor or felony charges, tons of fines and they could potentially be put on the sex offender’s list as well. Whether or not a crime is reported or if an abuser is brought to justice is always up to the victim. 

The consequences of false reporting, keep in mind, are just as severe. The Michigan penal code 750.411a details the law for false reporting, and the consequences for the false reporter can be very extreme, depending on how much this false report affected innocent people. 

The code states that the false report of a misdemeanor can lead the person who reported to be charged with a misdemeanor, up to 93 days in prison and a hefty fine. If the false report is of a felony crime, the person who reported could not only receive felony charges, but face five to 15 years in prison, along with thousands of dollars in fines depending on the severity of the situation.

Last weekend, a GVSU student reported to police that they woke up in an apartment after a party and suspected that they had been drugged and raped. The Grand Valley Police Department sent out an alert to students and faculty reporting this, noting that there was no suspect and that the attacker could be on the loose. A few days later, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s office determined that the drugging and assault never happened. It is unclear whether this student lied outright about the situation or whether they had reason to think they’d actually been assaulted. Regardless, the situation reminds us that making reports can have serious implications for everyone involved.