Silent Observer, GVPD observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Hannah Lentz

April is known across the U.S. as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In collaboration with the nation-wide month of awareness, West Michigan’s Silent Observer and the Grand Valley State University Police Department are working to deliver justice for crimes of sexual abuse.

Silent Observer started a poster campaign at the beginning of the month highlighting suspects of crimes related to sexual violence. So far, two of the suspects have already been identified for the community.

Silent Observer of Kent County works as an anonymous reporting outlet for serious crimes in the community. When reports are made to the hotline they never include a name. Instead, those calling in will be given a special code number associated with their report.

The aim of this month’s campaign is to help to encourage the reporting of sexual violence around the community through the help of a visual aid.

Chris Cameron, executive director of Silent Observer has organized several other campaigns revolving around the idea the wanted poster as a visual aid. In October, Silent Observer launched a campaign revolving around Domestic Violence Awareness Month. During this time, the majority of suspects pictured were identified.

“This is a great opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless,” Cameron said. “A chance for you to help out a friend or someone in the community who cannot speak for themselves quite yet and to bring criminals to justice.”

Another focus of the month for Silent Observer is bringing as many criminals to justice as possible. According to statistics from Silent Observer, the majority of sexual assaults, an estimated 63 percent, are never reported to the police as some victims feel concerned about not being believed; fearful of retaliation from their attackers, shame or fear of being blamed, or pressured from others not to tell. Since Silent Observer is anonymous, there is not the same risk of identification for the reporter.

“Sexual assault ranks right below murder in terms of severity,” Cameron said. “What it does to a person long-term isn’t something you can easily comes to terms with, especially if your attacker isn’t caught.”

On the GVSU campus, Capt. Brandon DeHaan and the rest of the GVPD team are also working to promote an increase in awareness regarding sexual assualt.

After the student group Eyes Wide Open approached GVPD to help make a statement to the GVSU community about sexual assault awareness, officers were asked to wear a teal ribbon during the month of April in an effort to show support for victims of sexual assault.

“By wearing the teal ribbons during April, we demonstrate a stance of solidarity and represent a commitment and support in the fight against sexual assault,” DeHaan said.

Anyone with information as to the location of the subjects shown on this poster can give anonymous tips by contacting Silent Observer at 774-2345; downloading Silent Observer’s new P3tips mobile app or submitting a web tip at Silent Observer will pay a reward of up to $500 for information leading to the arrest of the listed suspects.

Safety tips from Silent Observer

Walking around campus:

– If you can call an escort, do it. Every time. The security department provides walks to and from campus for students, faculty and staff upon request. Make sure you’re aware of it and use it.

– Never walk alone on a college campus in the evening. Remember, even if the campus is in the heart of a vibrant city where crime is not an issue, you never know who will make their way on campus and if their path will cross your college campus.

– If forced to walk alone, walk in well-lit areas where other students or vehicles will pass. Call friends before you leave, let them know you are on your way and the path you plan to take.

– Make sure you have a tool and plan of action if you are ever approached or assaulted. Ask the questions: ‘What will I do if I’m attacked? What do I have on me that could be used as a weapon? Where is the nearest police stop or friend? Where could I run? If this type of thinking is engrained in you, then you are 10 steps ahead if attacked. You are ready to fight and know what to do.

– When walking through campus, preferably at any time, but especially during the evening, night and early morning, do not walk distracted. This means: Having your phone in hand and ready to push “send” in case of an emergency, but no music in your ears. Know where you are going, who is behind you and who is in front of you.

Critically important: 

-Make sure you are familiar with the campus, where classes are, dorms/apartments are and what the campus offers students in terms of added safety.

While in apartments or dorms:

– Keep doors and windows locked at all times, even when down the hall visiting friends or taking a shower.

– Don’t let anyone (especially strangers) into your residence hall.

– Monitor your room key and don’t let others borrow them. If you lose your keys, report it and get locks changed immediately.


– Always have a working, charged cell phone.

– Save emergency numbers, including school law enforcement, in your cell phone. Also important is to make sure all your credit card company phone numbers are also loaded in case your wallet gets stolen.

– Trusty your instincts and do not care about being rude. If you think you are being followed, don’t ignore it. Get yourself to a safe environment. Walk up to a group of people you don’t know and make conversation or share your concerns. Make a scene if you have to. Predators look for easy targets, daydreamers or distracted students.

– Notify school-based law enforcement when you see suspicious characters on your campus.