GVPD sends first timely warning of the semester

Jenna Fracassi

On Monday, Sept. 11, Grand Valley State University students were sent a timely warning email alerting them of a sexual assault that had taken place on campus between 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, and 12:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 10.

According to the email, the GVSU Police Department received a call around 6:30 p.m. Monday regarding a sexual assault. The incident, which occurred near Hoobler and Frey living centers, involved a group of five to six male subjects.

It was reported that the group of males approached a lone female subject and one of them sexually assaulted her. Capt. Brandon DeHaan of the GVPD said the assault would be characterized as a “fondling incident,” or the touching of a private body part by another person. 

The assailant was described in the email as a “white male approximately 6’1-6’2″, thin build, wavy brown hair, wearing brown shorts, red jacket and a hat.” 

“We want to make sure we put notice out to our community when this type of activity occurs,” DeHaan said. “We had asked for any tips, any information (and) silent observer tips. We have received some tips in relationship to that. Our investigation is continuing. We’ve been following up on tips.” 

The assailant has not yet been identified, and GVPD is calling on the campus community for help. 

“We are asking our community to help come forward and help identify the nature of this incident so we can resolve it,” DeHaan said.

Anyone who has any knowledge or information specific to this incident is encouraged to contact the GVPD at 616-331-3255.

In light of this incident, DeHaan also thinks it is important to highlight the many campus resources available to provide support to sexual assault victims and ensure students’ overall safety. 

One resource available through GVSU is the Victim’s Rights and Options website

“The VRO website is loaded with resources, (including) campus victim advocate, our counseling center, our Title IX office; there is a number of on-campus resources—the Dean of Students Office—that are willing to help our students,” DeHaan said.

On the VRO website, students can access information on victim’s rights and options, frequently asked questions, definitions and police response options. Also, under the “Get Involved” tab, students can explore bystander tips and intervention training, as well as look at risk reduction and ways to protect themselves.

“I encourage students to join groups like Campus for Consent to continue to actively help educate, raise awareness and help change our society because we are just as responsible for change as the administration,” said Madison Rhoades, GVSU student and treasurer of “Eyes Wide Open,” via email. 

In addition, DeHaan mentioned the RAVE Guardian app as a good way to stay connected and safe. 

“If you go to the police department website, you will find RAVE Guardian,” DeHaan said. “It’s the RAVE Guardian application, and this is a bit of a risk-reduction strategy as well, but this particular solution is an electronic solution, and it’s a downloadable app to either an iPhone or an Android.”

Essentially, the app gives students an option to set a “safety timer” when they are walking somewhere alone or unfamiliar, which makes their status and location available to their respective “guardian(s).” Through this, GVPD (and other selected guardians) will be notified if the student’s timer expires and they do not arrive at their destination.

“On that application, you also have the ability to have a one-touch button to 911, so you’d be able to get ahold of 911 emergency,” DeHaan said. “You also can text with the campus police department. I think that’s important, too, from the standpoint that there might be a situation where you might not be able to talk, but you can still text.”

DeHaan said he encourages all students to download this application, as it is “an excellent opportunity, and there is zero cost to our student body.”

GVSU also has a “Safewalk” program for on-campus pedestrians. This service, which is offered seven days a week from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. during both fall and winter semesters, provides a GVPD cadet to walk with a student to or from their destination at the student’s request.

For more information on GVPD’s sexual assault response commitment, visit www.gvsu.edu/gvpd/sexual-assault-response-commitment-143.htm.