ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and universities like Grand Valley State University are taking part to educate and prevent assaults on campus.
Last fall, four students were assaulted near the Allendale campus during the first month of classes. The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office tells 24 Hour News 8 no arrests have been made in those cases and there haven’t been any similar assaults.
Still, GVSU has ramped up transparency and prevention efforts this year in response to those assaults. That response includes a criminal case review team that formed in February, made up of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, GVSU police and GVSU Campus Victim Advocate Ashley Schulte.
“We meet once a month and are talking about the students who are choosing to go forward with the criminal investigation, what that looks like from start to finish. I’m really thankful for that group right now because we’re starting to see the movement we’ve wanted in a really coordinated way,” Schulte explained.
Their goal is to create a better environment that makes students feel comfortable enough to report assaults and hopefully lead to more sexual assault prevention.
Campaigns like It’s On Us as Lakers encourage a proactive approach to combating sexual violence on campus.
While many of the resources on GVSU’s campus aren’t new, the attention surrounding the assaults last semester started a necessary conversation that’s moving the university in a positive direction.
“It’s been really nice because of the heightened awareness we’ve had this school year, how many students want to be engaged,” Schulte told 24 Hour News 8, adding several organizations have asked to host events outside of Sex Assault Awareness Month to keep the conversation going.
MORE LIGHTING, NO CALL BOXES
Tuesday evening, the GVSU Student Senate hosted a town hall meeting to highlight the progress made to combat rape culture and the pitfalls that remain. The student body seemed to agree there’s still work to do.
“We had more students participate in bystander intervention training than that we did every single month than we’ve had in the past,” Schulte said during the meeting.
Among the efforts started after the assaults last fall was a push to make the campus area safer at night.
“We were in the process of doing some sidewalk lighting projects and one of the things that will continue as part of an ongoing, multiyear project is some lighting and sidewalk from 42nd to 48th Avenue,” Associate Vice Provost for Student Services Andy Beachnau said.
Another hot topic at that meeting was the fact that there are no call boxes on campus. The GVSU police chief said campus security has reviewed that and the decision was made not to install them because most people have cellphones.
SOCIAL MEDIA POST SPARKS DEBATE ON RAPE CULTURE
The main concern for students at the town hall, however, was not the safety efforts. Their focus centered around fraternity culture and a recent social media post by a former student senator that said “rape culture isn’t real.” The Student Senate confirmed that person — who belongs to the Kappa Sigma fraternity — has since stepped down from his position.
“To deny rape culture, its existence, is to support rape. It is not to actively seek it out and destroy rape culture,” one student said at the meeting.
“We do know that frat culture tends to have assaults and it is very common and it doesn’t not happen here. We have cases to prove it historically and recently,” another student said.
A student who is in Kappa Sigma argued we live in a sexualized culture and said that conditions men and women to act in certain ways.
“When we belong to an American society that teaches young women how to defend themselves and protect themselves against rape rather than teaching young men not to rape, I think that’s really you know that’s wrong,” he said.