GVPD emphasizes resources for Domestic Violence Awareness Month


GVL \ Meghan Landgren

Sarah Edgecomb, News Editor

Grand Valley State University has strived to provide resources for victims of assault and abuse through the Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity. With October serving as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, GVSU students should know the resources and protections available. 

Assistant Director of Public Safety Captain Jeff Stoll said that given the nature of college relationships, which usually involve non-married couples or casual dating,  a majority of domestic violence cases on campus involve stalking, harassment or repeated unwanted contact.

Stoll said there are various actions that students can take to better protect themselves, including cease and desist letters and personal protection orders (PPOs). Cease and desist letters are documents that clearly outline that contact is unwanted, and can make obtaining a PPO easier if contact continues. Cease and desist orders also give police parameters to help since it provides proof of communication, Stoll said. PPOs are legally binding documents that must be obtained through a court hearing and be judge-approved. If contact continues after getting a PPO, the offender will be taken to jail.

On campus, cease and desist letters are most common due to newer relationships among students, Stoll said. He emphasized that students should develop social awareness when getting to know someone in order to avoid causing issues, such as sending repeated texts without a response, and that victims should clearly communicate that the contact is unwanted. 

How the issue is handled also depends on what the student needs and what actions are able to be taken, particularly since casual dating can create gray areas, Stoll said.

“Maybe we do something, maybe we don’t, but we’re still supportive of that student…All (harassment situations) vary in the nature of the crime, but they’re still victim-focused,” Stoll said.

If the issue is not criminal, a victim may be referred to victim advocate Krystal Diel. Diel works with victims to help report the situation if desired, whether to the university or to GVPD, as well as write PPOs, get connected in counseling and make a safety plan. She said that victims of domestic violence should prioritize safety and reach out to a professional, even if they aren’t ready to leave the relationship.

“There are resources out there to help them. It can be really difficult to leave those relationships for a lot of reasons,” Diel said. “I would encourage (victims) to come in and chat with me as the victim advocate or get connected with the counseling center to make sure that they can talk about options and resources and talk about a safety plan.”

Stoll said that working with the Center for Women and Gender Equity allows them to better help victims, and that GVPD is developing skill sets to be supportive of victims on campus. 

“Our job is better because we have Krystal helping support us,” Stoll said. “She can still protect and empower the victim while still helping us.”