How Hope College, Grand Valley respond to sex assault cases differently

HOLLAND, MICH. - Sexual assaults at two West Michigan colleges raise questions about how the schools respond to those incidents.

Four recent sexual assaults have been reported at Hope College, as well as at Grand Valley State University. The four female victims at Hope College have not filed a police report at this point, according to school leaders.

At Hope College, what has sparked a public conversation for an entire campus can also be a very private matter for an individual. 

Leaders there say conversations about sexual assaults start during orientation each year. However, they add students can find confidential resources at the counseling center, including a victim advocate. 

It's an important reminder as the college is dealing with four alleged sexual assaults.

"This is a place where they can go and share details of the assault without having to make a report and that's what happened in this case that some students went to the confidential resources," says Jennifer Fellinger, a spokeswoman at the college.

There were another four sexual assaults reported near Grand Valley State University. GVSU has a Women's Center to help victims.  

Here's what a victim advocate there told us previously: "How can we assure or reaffirm the safety that's been taken away from our students with the rise in alerts," said Ashley Schulte, a victim advocate with the Women's Center in a previous interview. 

We asked Hope College leaders why they don't have something like the Women's Center at GVSU.

"I think because we have a counseling center, and we have the support group within the counseling center," Fellinger said.

The law enforcement approach is different each school as well. GVSU has its own campus police with full law enforcement authority. Hope College has campus safety without police powers.

"They're not armed and the process they're involved in, in the case of sexual assault, is very separate from the process that say Holland PD would go through," Fellinger said.

Hope leaders say they work very closely with local law enforcement while finding the right resources for victims.

Many other West Michigan colleges have something along the lines of a counseling center. For example, Calvin College has an on-call sexual assault prevention team.

Starting next week, Western Michigan University will have a 24-hour mental health support line. Aquinas College and Davenport University partner with the YWCA to help with medical testing and for counseling.

Cornerstone University has staff at each dorm to connect students with resources. 

(© 2016 WZZM)


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