GVSU encourages students to speak up against sexual violence

The Womens Center can provide resources for women going through domestic violence. GVL / Sheila Babbitt

The Women’s Center can provide resources for women going through domestic violence. GVL / Sheila Babbitt

Laureen Horan

Every 98 seconds, someone experiences sexual violence in America. Out of every 1,000 reported cases, only six people will see time in prison, according to RAINN.org. Since the Fall 2018 semester began at Grand Valley State University, the Grand Valley Police Department has received reports of sexual violence nearly every week from students living on or near campus. Though some students have reported their situations, only 31 percent of all sexual violence cases are reported. 

“There’s certainly been an increase of reports of this nature this semester” said GVPD Chief Brandon DeHaan. 

Being that October is Domestic/Dating Violence Awareness Month, both the GVPD and the GVSU Victim’s Advocate Krystal Diel are hoping to encourage more students to speak out and seek help when they experience sexual violence. 

“Sexual violence is an umbrella term that includes sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking and harassment,” Diel said. “I am private resource for students… a listening ear, I help them navigate the police and Title IX systems, and connect them with other resources, such as counseling. My goal is to help ensure that students are healthy and safe and that they can make the decisions that are right for them.”

If you’re not familiar, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sexual violence and holds academic institutions responsible when assaults occur on or near campus. A college or university that receives federal funds may be held legally responsible when it knows about and ignores sexual assault in its programs or activities. This policy goes hand-in-hand with the Campus SaVE Act (Sexual Violence Elimination) of 2013, which requires institutions to be transparent about sexual violence within the campus community and also provide campus-wide preventative education and resources. 

Dating/domestic violence is quite common—one in three women and one in four men experience physical violence by an intimate partner. 

“It’s important to note that abuse is not just physical but can include intimidation, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, threatening behavior, belittling someone,” Diel said. “It can often be difficult for someone in an abusive relationship to recognize the signs. Some questions you might consider asking yourself is whether you feel like you are ‘walking on eggshells’ around your partner, your partner makes you feel like no one else would want you, is extremely jealous or possessive, constantly checks up on you or makes you check in with them, or controls when you spend time with friends/family. These are all red flags that someone might be in an unhealthy relationship.”

GVPD Captain Jeff Stoll emphasized that the police department wants students to speak up against their abusers and recognize GVPD as a safe place to come for support. 

“We want to do everything we can for victims of sexual assault, in any capacity. We are taking the initiative to create a soft interview room, something that feels like a living room in a home, where they can try to feel comfortable addressing their situations,” Stoll said. 

Along with the victim’s advocate, GVSU provides support and guidance for survivors of sexual violence at the University Counseling Center, which has locations at both the Allendale and downtown Grand Rapids campuses. Any services offered by the counseling center are free for students and always confidential. 

The Center for Women and Gender Equity is hosting a couple different events pertaining to Domestic Violence Awareness Month. On Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m., the center is partnering with Campus Interfaith to present a panel discussion, “Religious Institutions and the ‘Me Too’ Movement.” Additionally, The Center for Women and Gender Equity will be showing the documentary “Minding the Gap” and having a discussion afterward on Friday, Oct. 26 at 2 p.m. Both events will be held in Kirkhof 2204.

Diel’s office is located in The Center for Women and Gender Equity, Kirkhof 1201. She can be reached for assistance at (616) 331-2748 or via email at [email protected]. Students can also call the Young Women’s Christian Association on their 24 hour helpline at (616) 776-7273 for support.