Letter to the editor: Staying committed to sexual violence victims

Jesse Bernal

Editor’s note: This letter to the editor is in response to a report from the Grand Rapids Press Thursday, Oct. 27 titled “Grand Valley State University is ‘undermining’ prosecution of sex assaults, authorities claim.” In the article, Ottawa County Prosecutor Ronald Frantz said GVSU is “undermining good investigations and prosecutions” with its sexual misconduct reporting procedures. 

Recent media reports have alleged that Grand Valley State University has impeded investigations and prosecutions of sexual assaults and that we maintain a policy that discourages victim/survivors from reporting to police.

Let me be clear. Sexual assault is a crime. GVSU takes all reports of sexual misconduct and/or violence very seriously. Importantly, we are victim and survivor centered in our approach.

Our policies are clear and unambiguous. Victims/survivors should report sexual assault and employees are required to also report incidents when they hear about them. We provide many resources and options to victims/survivors of sexual violence and encourage legal options. However, pursuing a criminal investigation is a decision to be made by the victim/survivor. It is their decision and their legal right.

As a priority, we attend to the victims’ health and safety and their decision to utilize services. The Women’s Center, victim advocate and other campus resources are available to provide support and services to victims/survivors who choose – or choose not to – pursue criminal charges.

We also continue to work closely and cooperatively with campus and community partners, including law enforcement and legal agencies, to effectively respond to reports of sexual violence and its victims/survivors.

The university will continue to reach out to the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office to reinforce our desire to continue our work together on behalf of students and the community. We appreciate the long-standing collaborative relationship between the GVSU Police Department and the Ottawa County Sheriff. It is important to have strong community partnerships as we all share in a commitment to end sexual violence on and off campus.