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WMU examines sexual assault prevention systems in wake of GVSU, Aquinas attacks

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Right now, police are investigating reports of sexual assaults at both Aquinas College and Grand Valley State University.

Grand Rapids Police say a 19-year-old woman was walking on the Aquinas campus on Friday night when a man forced her into his car, drove her somewhere, and assaulted her before she was able to escape.

The next day, a woman reported being approached by a group of men on the GVSU campus, when one of them groped her.

In the wake of these assaults, Western Michigan University is addressing sexual assault head-on, and their commitment to student safety.

Newschannel 3 spoke to university officials about the steps they're taking to combat sexual assaults.

Western Michigan University is taking a proactive approach on sexual assault.

University officials say they don't want to wait for an assault to happen before educating students, and police agree.

Sexual assaults can happen on any campus, and Undersheriff Paul Matyas says the risk cannnot be ignored.

"Let's not be naïve about what is going on here, you have a criminal element out there that sees these students as easy prey," he said.

The renewed warning comes after two recent sexual assaults were reported on the campus of Aquinas College and Grand Valley State University on Friday and Saturday.

"Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to what you are doing, and lets be a little smart about showing up at different places," Matyas said.

But Cari Robertson, with Western Michigan University, says with a new semester underway the safety of students at WMU is a major concern, and hopes an informed campus can keep crime at bay.

"Unfortunately these things do happen, it's a cultural issue, it's been going on for hundreds of years and we do get really sad and impacted as campus community and as a team in the office dedicated to this issue," she said.

Robertson and Amber Mosley, who coordinates sexual assault prevention, says they work hard to keep campus safe for students, faculty, and staff.

"We're helping students create this community where we watch out for each other and we step in and prevent something from happening, and if something does happen like a sexual assault, then we are training students to know who to call, and what they need to help, students locate the resources on campus because we do have a lot of resources here," Robertson said.

But it starts at home.

"Families are willing to open up conversations about what consent looks like; that is a really important message for them to pass, that way as they come into the university they have a baseline of what that is," Mosley said.

Western has numerous programs like HEROES, that helps educate students on sexual assault on campus.

And every incoming student is required to complete a module on sexual assault before classes begin.

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