Victim & Survivor Advocacy

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We Believe You. We Are Here to Support You.
Kaylee Wolff

Image of GVSU Victim Advocate Kaylee Wolff

Kaylee Wolff (she/her), Victim Advocate

Office Address: 1201 Kirkhof Center - located in the Center for Women & Gender Equity
Phone: (616) 331-2742
Email: [email protected]
Schedule an Appointment

The victim advocate is here to support you. Victim/Survivors are of all backgrounds: ages, genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, faiths, ages, abilities, etc. Anyone who is part of the GVSU community can access services and resources through the victim advocate. Experiencing violence, whether it is sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking, and/or harassment is incredibly difficult. On this website, you will find information about resources and options. It is your choice to choose what options are best for you, and advocates role is to listen, provide you with options and resources, and support your choices. The Center for Women and Gender Equity Victim Advocate is a confidential resource on campus. 

“You are brave & strong and WE ARE HERE FOR YOU. You did not deserve this & we stand with you.”

Anonymous GVSU Student
Believe Survivors

Advocacy FAQs

What is an Advocate?

The role of the Victim Advocate is to provide nonjudgmental, confidential support to student survivors of gender-based violence which plays a critical role in the healing process of a victim/survivor. The Victim Advocate does not report any incidents of gender-based violence to Title IX and/or GVPD. Meeting with our Victim Advocate, DOES NOT start a formal misconduct or criminal process, unless you want to access those options. Likewise, you do not need to have a formal report filed in order to meet with the Victim Advocate. The Victim Advocate is trained to help students navigate options and services on campus and in the community. Any member of the Grand Valley State University community can contact the Victim Advocate on campus. Victim/survivors can contact a co-advocate or the victim/survivor may have someone reach out on their behalf.

Advocates are available to respond to student survivors of gender-based violence with empathetic support and options. The Victim Advocate can provide support in-person, on Zoom, or over the phone. Available support includes (but is not limited to):

·         Referrals to counseling and other supportive services on campus and in the community

·         Education about medical options and procedures, including evidence collection

·         Information about and referrals to legal advocacy, including Personal Protection Orders

·         Assistance in reporting to law enforcement, if you choose

·         Support and advocacy in participating in a Title IX investigation, if you choose

·         Support and advocacy for academic and housing options

·         Assistance for significant others and friends of victim/survivors of gender/based violence

The Victim Advocate provides confidential support. This means that talking with the advocate DOES NOT start a Title IX complaint process or criminal process unless you want to access those options. Here are ways you can set up a time to speak with the advocate:

  • Call the Center for Women & Gender Equity at 616-331-2748. A student worker will the answer the phone and assist you with scheduling an appointment, or transfer you to the advocate if available.
  • You may also reach the Victim Advocate directly:

Schedule an appointment here
Phone: 
(616) 331-2742
Email:  [email protected] 
Office Address: 1201 Kirkhof Center - located in the Center for Women & Gender Equity
Appointments are highly encouraged, as the Victim Advocate may not always be available for walk-in appointments.

What to expect when you arrive at the Center for Women and Gender Equity:

  • Inform the student worker that you are a GVSU student and that you would like to set up a time to meet with an advocate to discuss a "private matter." You have control over whether or not you share any other information.
  • Based on your availability you will work with the student worker to be scheduled to meet with an advocate as soon as they are available.
  • When you arrive at the Center for Women & Gender Equity for your meeting with the advocate check in with the student worker at the front desk informing them that you have a meeting scheduled with the Victim Advocate - You may bring a friend/partner with you.
  • You will be asked to take a seat and the advocate will be notified that you have arrived.
  • The advocate will show you back to their office 
  • You (the victim/survivor) have complete control of what you want to tell the advocate, and how long or often appointments go on for. Some folks need only one or two appointments to find the resources they need. Others may need longer term advocacy and support. 

When someone you love and care for discloses that they have experienced sexual assault or intimate partner violence, you may not know what to say. These conversations are not easy and may not feel comfortable, so here are some tips and suggestions to respond with empathy when someone discloses an experience of violence. 

  • Listen. Let the survivor know you care and are here to listen. You could say, “you’re not alone. I am here for you.” Let them share with you as much or as little as they want. While they are sharing, show active listening skills. You could ask open ended questions such as, "how are you feeling?" It is difficult to hear that someone you care about was hurt. Threatening the person who perpetrated is not helpful to the victim/survivor. Since survivors often know the person who assaulted them, it is important to be mindful of their feelings. The survivor may still care for that person. It is the survivor's decision on how they want to move forward.
  • Thank them. Let them know that you appreciate that they trust you enough to share with you. You could say, “thank you for sharing with me” or "I'm really glad you told me about this."
  • Believe. Tell the survivor, “I believe you.” Often survivors fear reporting or talking about a traumatic experience because they fear they won't be believed.  Let them know that they are not to blame for the incident. You can say things such as “it’s not your fault“ or "you didn't deserve that to happen to you." Never blame the victim or tell them that they aren't being truthful. Remember it is not your job to investigate. Avoid any “why” questions like, “why didn't you leave?” or “why didn't you call me?” Asking questions that lay blame on the victim are not helpful. It is never a victim's fault if they were assaulted or abused. 
  • Show Support.  Let the survivor know that healing can take time and that their feelings are normal. “How you are feeling is normal.”
  • Empower the victim/survivor. It is important to give the power back to victims. You can help identify support systems such as counseling or crisis centers. Encourage them to seek help. Let the person control what happens following an incident of violence. Don’t force them to report, call the police or go to the hospital. Support the survivor's decisions, even if you disagree with them. Ask questions such as:
    • "How can I help? What would you like to do?"
    • "Is it okay to hug you?" Never touch a victim without their consent. Even if you want to give someone a hug or show that you care through physical touch, it is important to ask first.
    • "Where would you like me to sit?"
  • Take care of yourself, too. It is normal to feel an array of emotions when you learn someone you care about has experienced violence. Many agencies that offer free services to victims also offer free services to family and friends affected by vicarious trauma after an incident of violence. The GVSU victim advocate is here to support anyone who has been affected by gender based violence.

A Co-Advocate is a role specific to GVSU. Co-Advocates at Grand Valley are professional staff members or faculty that participate in ongoing training to work closely with the Victim Advocate in order to provide additional non-judgmental, confidential support to survivors of gender-based violence. All Co-Advocates have received extensive training from the Victim Advocate and Violence Prevention & Education Coordinator to work with survivors of gender-based violence. The Co-Advocates on campus have full-time positions elsewhere and spend some of their time working with individuals in this capacity. Co-Advocates are specially trained to help students navigate options and services on campus and in the community.

Click here to meet the Co-Advocates


Victim/Survivor FAQs

A Sexual Assault Forensic Medical exam ( or Sexual Assault Nurses Exam), sometimes referred to as a Rape Kit, is a free medical examination to provide medical treatment and/or evidence collection up to 120 hours (5 days) following a sexual assault. Survivors do not have to report to police in order to receive a forensic medical exam and/or for evidence to be collected. 

Where do I go for a Sexual Assault Forensic Medical Exam?

Forensic Medical Exams can be performed at the YWCA in Grand Rapids and Resilience in Holland for up to 120 hours (5 days) after an assault. 

The forensic medical exam is voluntary and any part of the forensic medical exam may be declined by the victim/survivor. You may stop, pause or skip any part of the exam

In general here are the steps of a forensic medical exam:

  • Immediate Medical Care - addressing injuries that need immediate attention.
  • The nurse will gather a detailed medical history as well as details about the assault. These questions may be personal, but they help to guide the nurse during the evidence collection process. What you share is documented and included in the sexual assault kit. 
  • The nurse may offer a head-to-toe physical examination, examination of the genitalia, collect swabs of any body areas that may contain evidence, collection of clothing, other evidence, blood, urine samples and photographs of injuries. This is optional and you have the right to decline anything you are uncomfortable with.
  • The nurse will discuss potential risk for sexually transmitted infections, HIV and/or pregnancy. The nurse will discuss options for preventative medical care, treatment and testing.
  • At the end you will be provided information for follow up medical care and resources.

You have the right to choose whether to release your Sexual Assault Kit to law enforcement and make a police report, or for your evidence to be stored at the healthcare facility for at least one year.

If you choose to release your kit to police, you have the right to know the results of the forensic testing. Contact the police agency investigating the sexual assault, a local sexual assault services program or the prosecutor's office for assistance.

  • Preserve Evidence.
    • Avoid doing anything that could damage evidence such as bathing, eating, brushing teeth, changing clothing, doing laundry, etc. - you can still have an exam if you have done any of these things.
    • Place items such as clothing or bedding into a paper bag to safely preserve evidence. Note that plastic bags can damage evidence.
  • Schedule your exam as soon as you are ready. Although you have up to 5 days, having your exam sooner will allow for more options for evidence collection and preventative care.
  • Consider what would help you to feel more comfortable. You may want to bring a change of clothes with you. The process can be lengthy, so feel free to bring a support person with you if you'd like.

Sexual and intimate partner violence can have psychological, emotional and physical effects on a survivor. These effects can be managed with support. Below is a list of common responses (*please note that this is not an exhaustive list.)

  • Physical Responses
    • Sleep disturbances and fatigue
    • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
    • Loss of coordination, tremors, or shakiness
    • Pain (such as headache, stomach ache, chest pains, muscle aches, etc.)
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Appetite changes
    • Changes in sexual libido
    • Feeling easily started
  • Emotional or Psychological Responses:
    • Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or panic attacks
    • Hypervigilance
    • Feeling overwhelmed
    • Guilt, shame
    • Feeling helpless, powerless, lost or abandoned
    • Numbness
    • Shock and disbelief
    • Grief
    • Negative body image or self-consciousness
    • Sudden mood changes or emotional outbursts (anger, irritability, crying,
  • Cognitive
    • Memory problems or loss
    • Flashbacks, nightmares
    • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, decreased attention span
    • Thinking about trauma constantly
    • Racing thoughts
    • Difficulty processing
  • Avoidance and Denial
    • Avoiding thinking or talking about the traumatic experience
    • Avoiding specific situations, people or places
    • Withdrawal, isolation (missing classes, change or loss of connection with University or Community, etc.)
    • Acting as if nothing has changed
    • Minimizing - thinking the abuse was not as bad as someone else's
  • Common Coping Mechanisms
    • Increased alcohol or drug use
    • Unusual behavior
    • Excessive humor
    • Self injury
    • Changes in appearance
    • Changes in sexual behavior

Red flags are warning signs that you might be in an abusive relationship. If you feel threatened, isolated or fearful of breaking up with your partner, you might be in an abusive relationship. Perpetrators often keep you from hanging out with friends/family, check up on you constantly, blame you for their actions, criticize your thoughts and beliefs and threaten to kill themselves if you break up with them.

Does your partner:

  • Make derogatory remarks or undermine your opinions?
  • Criticize your clothing, your interests or other things you like? Insult your intelligence, your body or your looks?
  • Constantly check on your whereabouts, calling or texting you all the time? (Who are you with? When will you be home? Require you to share your location?)
  • Insist on checking your text messages, emails, social media accounts? Do they check these without your consent?
  • Ignore you or give you the silent treatment?
  • Forbid or limit your contact with your friends or family; your partner isolates you?
  • Compare you to previous dating partners?
  • Not like when you hang out with friends of the opposite sex? Is your partner intensely jealous of your interaction with others?
  • Force you to have sex or be sexual when you do not want to?
  • Threaten to kill themselves/himself/herself if you break up with them/him/her?
  • Lose his/her/their temper over small things? Is their anger frightening?
  • Throw things, kick things, or break things when mad?
  • Blame you or others for their behavior?

Do you:

  • Have a gut feeling that something is not right?
  • Feel afraid to break up with your partner?

*These are only warning signs that you may be in an abusive or unhealthy relationship. If you feel that you are in an abusive relationship, please contact the Victim Advocate for assistance.


Advocacy Resources

Law Enforcement -  Each department investigates crimes that occur within their jurisdiction

Office of Civil Rights & Title IX

Grand Valley State University is committed to creating and advancing a campus community where you feel empowered to raise concerns, ask for help, or learn about your options before making any decisions. If you have experienced, witnessed, been impacted by sexual misconduct (sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking), harassment, or discrimination, or impacted by an allegation, staff in the Office of Civil Rights & Title IX can assist in finding the options that feel right for you.

Office of Civil Rights & Title IX staff are also aware that your concerns may be of a sensitive nature and can offer support to help you.  The Office of Civil Rights & Title IX staff are available to discuss resources, supportive measures, options for resolution, and GVSU's prohibition of retaliation against individuals for filing a report or for participating in a resolution process.

Office of Civil Rights & Title IX
4015 James H. Zumberge Hall
(616) 331-9530

The CARE Team provides holistic support to GVSU students. If you or someone you know needs support from the CARE Team, you can submit a Student of Concern CARE Referral here.

When Should I Make A Care Referral?

STUDENT WELL-BEING

CARE referrals can be submitted for health and safety, family issues, or life situations. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Mental Health Concerns
  • Death of Family Member/Close Friend
  • Self-Disclosed personal distress, including family problems, financial difficulties, suicidal thoughts, grief
  • Bizarre content in writings/presentations
  • Marked changes in physical behavior (deterioration in grooming or hygiene, significant weight loss/gain).
  • Social/Adjustment Concerns
  • Increased need for personal (rather then academic) counseling
  • Unusual/Disproportionate emotional response to events
  • Excessive tearfulness
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Signs of substance abuse
  • Unprovoked anger of hostility
  • Academic assignments/or communication dominated by themes of hopelessness, rage, worthlessness, isolation, despair, acting out, suicidal ideation, violence to others

 

RESOURCE CONCERNS

CARE referrals can be submitted for student concerns that are related to resource needs. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Food Insecurity
  • Financial Hardship
  • Housing Concerns 
    • Living out of car
    • Couch surfing 
    • About to be evicted
    • Unstable housing
    • Homeless
  • Lack of academic resources or supplies
  • In need of technology support (can't afford laptop repair, or in need of temporary laptop replacement)
  • In need of menstrual health products
  • In need of health insurance 

Hotline Resources

Personal Protection Orders
20th Circuit Court

414 Washington Avenue, Suite 300
Grand Haven, MI 49417
616-846-8315
www.miottawa.org/Departments/CountyClerk/CourtRecords/PPO.htm

Legal Aid of Western Michigan
636 Hastings Ave
Holland, MI 49423
616-394-1380
www.lawestmi.org

Ottawa County Legal Self-Help Center
www.miottawa.org/Courts/Legal/

Crime Victim Compensationhttps://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/safety-injury-prev/publicsafety/crimevictims/crime-victim-compensation
Assists eligible crime victims and their immediate families with the financial cost of crime.

Crime Victim Notification Networkhttps://vinelink.com/#state-selection 
Find, obtain and receive notifications of court dates, case status, and custody changes.

Michigan Immigrant Rights Centermichiganimmigrant.org

Replenish is located in the Kirkhof Center and is available to GVSU students.

GVSU is striving to make it easier for nursing mothers to maintain breastfeeding after returning to work or school by providing private and comfortable "nursing nests."

Baby Changing Stations: 

Changing stations are located in various restrooms across campus. Baby changing stations have been added to restrooms in the following locations: Commons, Fieldhouse, Kirkhof Center, Lake Ontario Hall, Mackinac Hall, Niemeyer Honors College, and Performing Arts Center. This has been done to serve our faculty, staff, students and community members that may have children on campus during working hours or for events.

Room for Nursing Mothers/Nursing Nests

GVSU's Children's Enrichment Center provides early education and care for GVSU students, faculty, staff, and the community at large.

 

Grand Valley takes instances of gender-based violence very seriously. Below is the link to Grand Valley’s policy in regards to sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and discriminatory harassment:

Policy Prohibiting Title IX Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and Discriminatory Harassment


Help support victims / survivors!

With your support, the Center for Women & Gender Equity will have the capacity and resources to carrying on existing initiatives while developing new efforts that incorporate our vision for the future. Contact us for more information about making a gift.

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Key Terms

The language used in Title IX policy & procedures can be lengthy and complicated. Here is a key terms document to help! 

Policy & Procedures

GVSU's Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation, & Sexual Misconduct can be found here. This policy includes sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, & sexual exploitation.

Office of Civil Rights & Title IX

Reporting Process



Page last modified April 10, 2024