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Community rallies around woman as police investigate assault allegations

The Oshtemo Township has rallied around a woman who said she was taken advantage of by someone she thought cared about her. (WWMT/FILE)

The Oshtemo Township community has rallied around a woman who said she was taken advantage of by someone she thought cared about her.

Jennifer Tyler has been a regular customer at the 9th Street Harding’s Friendly Market for nine years. Her nine-year-old son Adam has been coming to the store with his mom for all his life.

Tyler is deaf. Over the years, she's taught her friends on the Harding’s staff how to use sign language to communicate with her. Those friends helped tell Tyler’s story.

"Everybody loves her, everybody. Jennifer doesn't meet anybody she can't like,” said Harding’s manager Patty Crowl. "She would give you the shirt off her back, and so it kills me that somebody did this to her."

Tyler said she was taken advantage of by a man she met on Facebook, and had been dating for two months. She said in early January, her boyfriend drugged her.

"And she would feel very tired, would not remember, start blacking out,” Crowl said.

Tyler said she was raped several times. She said when she got out of the hospital, almost everything she owned was gone, even Adam's toys.

"Everything. The only thing he left was their bed frames, and their mattress,” Crowl said.

Heartbroken for a friend, Crowl went to management with the idea to ask the community for help. The store put up collection jars, and signs explaining Tyler’s story. In less than a week, the store has collected more than $2,000.

"We've had donations of clothing, of toys, of the money. We were able to pay her rent. We were able to pay her other bills," Crowl said.

Crowl said helping someone who is so much more than a customer was an easy choice. "It makes me very proud to be a part of this community,” she said.

Tyler said she was very happy to have the support of her community, and in particular, her family at Harding’s.

Crowl said the store will keep the collection jars up through Sunday, but anyone who wants to contribute can continue to do so.

The Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office said it is investigating an assault related to Tyler. No suspect information has been released.

Follow Sam Knef on Twitter and Facebook.

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