Ottawa Co. Prosecutor criticizes GVSU for handling of sex assaults

Prosecutor knocks GVSU sex assault reporting

ALLENDALE, MICH. - Ottawa County's top law enforcement official is calling out leaders at Grand Valley State University for their handling of sex assault cases.

Prosecutor Ron Frantz told Mlive that delays in the reporting process are hampering investigations.

It comes after a string of unsolved sex assaults reported in August and September near the GVSU campus.

Prosecutor Ron Frantz declined to talk to us on camera about his criticism of GVSU, but he sent an email instead. He says it comes down to balancing what investigators need with being caring and compassionate to the victims. 

Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Frantz claims that the GVSU policy discourages prompt reporting of sexual assault cases, according to his interview with Mlive.

He goes onto to say that the reports trickle in weeks or even months later, which hampers the police and prosecutors' ability to build cases. That includes gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses in a timely manner.

Prosecutor Frantz also told Mlive that there needs to be a greater sense of urgency about encouraging reporting at the GVSU Women's Center.

Mlive reports that of 15 reported rapes in 2015 only four cases were sent to the prosecutors office and no criminal charges were filed.

The prosecutor and sheriff have been frustrated about the policy for years, the article said.

We talked to some GVSU students who do have safety concerns if potential suspects are not prosecuted.

"It's not being dealt with as fast as it should be then," says Samantha Meissner, a sophomore at GVSU.

"It puts other girls at risk of being sexually assaulted too because they're (the suspect) still out there," says Melissa Koski, a sophomore at GVSU. 

However, students also told us that GVSU has several support programs dealing with sexual assault. They say it's important to be respectful victims wishes.

"You don't know if the girl just did not want to deal with it right away, it could be based off her, I don't know you couldn't really say it's based off of GV or anything like that," says Meissner. 

"I've been pleased with how Grand Valley has been handling the situation, I feel like they inform us pretty quickly and they have lots of resources on campus that you can go to, organizations to go to, phone numbers you can call, to report stuff like it," says Cecilia Cerven,a freshman at GVSU. 

Prosecutor Frantz told us that he hopes his public statements will lead to a more productive dialogue with GVSU in the future.

Late Thursday afternoon, we received a statement from Grand Valley State University.

Vice President Jesse Bernal says, "The University is victim centered. As a priority we attend to the victim's health and safety and their decision to utilize services."

Bernal goes on to say, "Our policies are clear – victims should report sexual assault – and employees are required to also report incidents when they hear about them."

The university says it is cooperating with law enforcement in the investigation.

(© 2016 WZZM)


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