GVPD, GV pushes education as Sexual Assault Awareness Month approaches

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The GVPD’s comfort room, designed to be less intimidating than other parts of the department. Courtesy / GVPD

Adam Trombley

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is approaching in April and the GVSU community plans to use this as an opportunity to bring awareness and education to these incidents and how they can be prevented.

“In this demographic, the issue is very appropriate to talk about because we see it consistently year after year and it’s an issue that does impact our students and our community,” said Capt. Jeffrey Stoll of the Grand Valley Police Department.

As first responders, the GVPD is usually the first group to find out about incidents and they are the first to have contact with the victim. Stoll says their goal is to make sure they can offer the victim or survivor both safety and support during this horrible experience.

“Sexual assault is something that is very real to our department,” Stoll said. “We work very hard to prevent it, mitigate it as much as possible, and try to provide any support to any victim or survivor whenever it is appropriate.”

The GVPD offers their officers extensive training on expressing empathy and support to the victims and survivors. Stoll said it is important for them to be able to listen and hear the victims so that the victims can guide the conversation in order to help regain their mentality as much as they can.

The GVPD knows how intimidating it can be to come and speak to them. Because of this, the GVPD has set up a comfort room with couches and softer lighting in order to help make it less intimidating for those who come to them. The GVPD will try to gain information as it is appropriate, but they recognize that it can be hard to give the information relative to the incident because of the trauma that occurred. 

Throughout the month of April, programming will be held by both Housing and Resident Life as well as the Center for Women and Gender Equity in order to provide this important information about sexual assaults. Although the programming will be limited due to Covid-19, it will still be held virtually in order to provide this important education.

One of the main ideas of this education is the idea of topic bystander intervention and using it to help prompt people to recognize when these situations are happening so they can try to prevent it as much as possible. 

“Consistently for us, the overwhelming majority of victims are female with males being the suspects,” Stoll said. “A large majority of our cases, involve victims and suspects that knew each other prior.”

Stoll says that there is often a connection to alcohol consumption in relation to sexual assaults and that a large number of the sexual assaults that take place are never reported. When victims and survivors do come forward, there are a variety of ways they can go about it.

Full criminal investigations, requesting to document the incident or going through the Title IX is the process for internal disciplinary actions through the University. A criminal conviction is an ideal scenario for the GVPD but they understand it is at the discretion of the victim and survivor to determine the course of action they want to take.