Updates to Clery Act report offers new definitions, more resources

The Clery Act is a 1992 federal law that requires colleges and universities to publish reported crimes. At Grand Valley State University, the police department is one of the groups responsible for updating the annual security and fire safety report.

Capt. Brandon DeHaan, the GVSU Clery compliance officer, said the biggest updates to the report this year are the new definitions of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. These are the four crimes of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which President Barack Obama reauthorized in March 2013.

“The federal government has said universities need to do better with what they’re doing to address those areas,” DeHaan said. “I think it’s important for students to understand those definitions.”

DeHaan said this year’s report provides victims of sexual assault with specific resources and information about where to go for medical care, who to contact for help both on and off campus and how to report the crime if they want to have it investigated.

“The university encourages students to report to the police or the Women’s Center,” DeHaan said.

The updated report includes campus programs that are offered for GVSU students, faculty and staff. These programs include Transitions week, ReACT performances, Take Back the Night, the Clothesline Project and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.

DeHaan said these focus on risk reduction and intervention.

“We offer seminars to make students aware of what these crimes are and what to do if they are a victim,” he said. “The educational programs are built to identify these problems. We want to make sure this information is presented on an ongoing basis.”

In addition to the new sexual assault information, the report provides campus crime statistics from 2011 to 2013. The VAWA crimes were not required to be reported until 2013.

Although it is not required to list larceny statistics, DeHaan said GVSU includes it because it is the number one reported crime. Liquor law violations and drug arrests are the next highest reported crimes. Reported sexual assault crimes have decreased in recent years.

“We’ve tried to make it easier to compare statistics,” DeHaan said. “We want to be very transparent to make sure the policies, what we have in writing, are what we say we do. I would expect to see additional updates as time goes on.”

Trevor Wuori, president of Eyes Wide Open and Rock Against Rape at GVSU, said he thinks it was necessary to update the Clery Act and VAWA because sexual assault is an important topic that needs to be addressed on college campuses.

“I’m glad that universities are going to be held accountable to report these crimes,” he said. “It’s important for students to know because they can educate their peers and raise more awareness about the issue.”

Wuori added that he thinks of GVSU as a safe campus, but no system is perfect.

“Some people might think that a lower number of reports means that there are less instances and therefore that university is safer,” he said. “Some universities may see a jump in reporting, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that more assaults are occurring, but that people are more comfortable with coming forward with their crime.”

Eyes Wide Open is a student organization that works to raise awareness of sexual assault and other related issues through events and presentations to the campus community. The group meets every Monday at 9 p.m. in Room 1142 of the Kirkhof Center.

GVPD worked with the Women’s Center, the Dean of Students Office, the Human Resources Department and the University Counsel to update the Clery Act report.

To read the full report, visit www.gvsu.edu/gvpd. To report a crime, contact GVPD at (616)-331-3255 or the Women’s Center at (616)-331-2748.