Sexual Assault

In the event of a sexual assault the Counseling Center is available for assistance.

We can provide immediate crisis counseling, help with referrals and linkage to community resources (including the YWCA Nurse Examiner Program in Grand Rapids 616-776-RAPE or the Center for Women in Transition in Holland 616-392-1970 or 800-848-5991), and ongoing counseling services.

Sexual assault is defined as: The use of force to penetrate oral, vaginal, or anal cavity of a person who has not consented or is incapable of consent. 
Consent has to be clearly and freely given and the absence of "no" is not consent.  Consent cannot be coerced through threats to harm the victim physically or mentally (such as verbal threats against one's character); when the assailant knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally incapacitated (temporarily incapable of appraising or controlling their conduct due to influence of narcotics, alcohol, etc.); or when the victim is physically helpless (unconscious, asleep, or for any other reason physically unable to communicate unwillingness).

What to do if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted:

  • Get to a place where you / they feel safe.
  • Try to preserve all the physical evidence (even if they don't want you to press charges at this point), keep clothes and other items in a brown paper bag.
  • Reinforce that it wasn't their fault and believe them. Provide information about options but allow them to make decisions about what to do next.

What options are available for someone who has been sexually assaulted:

Where to get assistance:    

   On Campus:

  • If you feel you are in a life threatening situation, CALL 911.
  • Contact your RA, Graduate Assistant, or Living Center Director.
  • Contact the  Counseling Center  at 616-331-3266
    (after business hours, contact your RA or Public Safety at 616-331-3255).
  • Contact the Women's Center at 616-331-2748.
  • Contact the YWCA Sexual Assault Program in Grand Rapids
    24-hour hotline at 616-776-RAPE (7273).
  • Contact the Center for Women in Transition in Holland
    24-hour hotline at 616-392-1970 or 800-848-5991.


    Off Campus:

  • If you feel you are in a life threatening situation, CALL 911.
  • Contact the YWCA Sexual Assault Program 24-hour hotline 616-776-RAPE (7273)
    or visit their Web site at
  • Contact the Counseling Center 616-331-3266.
  • Contact the Center for Women in Transition in Holland
    24-hour hotline 616-392-1970 or 1-800-848-5991
    or visit their Web site at

Even if the victim doesn't want to press charges or get counseling, stress the importance of contacting the YWCA Sexual Assault program or the Center for Women in Transition in Holland as quickly as possible and encourage the victim to be seen by a nurse examiner. The examiner can check for physical injury, discuss STD prevention, emergency contraception, and collection of evidence in case the victim changes his/her mind at a later date about reporting. These agencies also have staff available to talk about options and other services that are available to individuals.

What you can say to help a sexual assault victim:

  • Keep telling the victim that it is not his/her fault.
    Never blame the victim. Don't let him/her blame himself/herself. Sexual Assault is never the victim's fault even if she/he didn't yell for help, fight back, or was drinking.
  • Tell the victim that her/his survival is all the really matters.
    It will be reassuring for the victim to hear that what is most important is s/he survived and got through the experience as best s/he could. Questions like "why did you go there alone?" are blaming, not reassuring.
  • Tell the victim that you believe that s/he was sexually assaulted.
    If you communicate that you believe her/him, you will be helping the victim a great deal. If s/he says s/he was sexually assaulted, then that is enough even if s/he didn't scream or there was no evidence of harm.
  • Tell the victim that you will support her/him by listening.
    Be supportive by listening, not judging or prying. Let her/him take their time to share the details. Let her/him share only what s/he is able to.
  • Ask the victim what s/he needs from you instead of telling her/him how to handle the situation.
    Let the victim be in control of who to tell about the assault and how s/he manages her/his life. This will help her/him feel that s/he is regaining the control s/he lost by being victimized.
  • Tell the victim that it is okay to talk about her/his feelings for as long as s/he needs.
    It is normal for a victim to feel angry, afraid, anxious and depressed. If her/his feelings intensify and continue to overwhelm her/him and s/he is not getting help, support your friend in getting help.