Safety & Security

Adapted, with permission, from the Calvin College Student Handbook.

  1. Safety and Security

    Calvin Theological Seminary Students are not exempt from threats to their personal safety and should use precautionary measures to minimize existing dangers and hazards in the environment. Although living with constant fear is unnecessary and unhealthy, students should be aware of safeguards that deter possible victimization. Here are a few basic suggestions:

    1. Always keep the door(s) of your residence locked. If applicable, place a thin block of wood in the inside track of sliding glass doors to restrict entry.
    2. Always keep your card doors locked. Also, do not leave valuables in your car while it is unattended.
    3. Unsecured bicycles invite theft. Purchase a bike lock and secure your bike to a stationary object.
    4. Identify expensive and/or important belongings with some type of permanent identification, such as can be provided with a metal engraver.
    5. Rely on your neighbors and have them rely on you to be alert to suspicious persons and/or unusual events.
  2. Personal Precautions

    As mentioned above, Calvin Theological Seminary students must not take their safety for granted. In addition to taking basic precautions, students should also be aware of the possibility of personal assault and robbery (particularly off-campus students, commuters, or students who frequently travel throughout the city). Several guidelines are helpful to keep in mind.

    1. Visitors to your home. First, do not admit anyone into your home until you know who s/he is. Determine who it is before you open the door — either by looking through the peephole or opening your door the length of your chain lock. If a stranger is at the door, do not hesitate to ask for two or three pieces of identification. Strangers should not become hostile when asked to verify their identity. If you do accidentally let someone in and you are home alone, fake it by mentioning a sleeping roommate or spouse.Use caution when dealing with people in uniforms also. Wearing a uniform does not automatically mean that someone has legitimate business. If a police officer comes to the door, ask for two or three pieces of identification. If a meter-reader knocks, ask him/her to wait while you call the utility company to see if readings are being made in your neighborhood on that day. If a door-to-door salesperson comes by, call your neighbors on either side to determine whether s/he has been to their homes. If s/he hasn’t called on them, s/he will probably be gone by the time you put down the phone.
    2. Personal address. If you live alone, especially if you are female, list only your first initial instead of your entire name on your mailbox. You can also put other names behind your own-J. VanderVan can share your box even if s/he does not receive any mail. In the phone book, list only your first initial and omit your street address.
    3. Answering Machines. If you own an answering machine, try to offer as little personal information as possible. Avoid using your name in the recording, especially if you live alone or are a female living with one or more females. Consider the following message: “Mary and Susan aren’t home right now but if you leave a message, we’ll return your call as soon as possible.” Such a message informs a potential assailant that two women room together and are not home at the moment. Recording the following is a much better option: “You have reached 954-0000. Please leave your message after you hear the tone.” In addition, if you live alone, avoid saying “I will return the call.” Referring to yourself in the first person may alert a potential assailant or robber that only one person occupies your home. Either omit the statement altogether or consider substituting “we” for “I.”
    4. Self-protection in your home. Finally, a word about weapons in your home for self-protection. It is important to realize that whatever you present as a weapon can be taken away from you and used against you. This is particularly true in the case of a knife. As a result, if an assailant does not have a knife, you should never introduce one into the situation. Rather, you could consider defending yourself with make-shift items (i.e., things in your environment that you could use as a weapon or shield). These make-shift weapons should be thrust straight into the assailant’s face or neck with short, powerful jabs. Short, straight thrusts are more difficult to block and deflect than downward strikes or horizontal swings. Other tactics to defend yourself might include either spraying something, or throwing any sort of powdery substance into the assailant’s eyes. Such an action momentarily blinds the assailant, providing you a chance to escape.
    5. Safe transportation. Your susceptibility to assault or mugging is greater when you leave your home simply because you have less protection around you (although the majority of date rapes and sexual assaults occur in either the victim’s or assailant’s residence). Whatever means of transportation you use to get yourself from your home to your destination, there are several security measures that can add to your security when traveling. If you own a car or use one for transportation, be certain that it is properly maintained and that you always have adequate gasoline to get you to your destination or to a service station.When you are driving, keep your doors locked at all times, and, if possible, keep your windows closed. Keep your car in gear at stop lights. If someone tries to enter your car, blow your horn and drive on as quickly as possible. If you break down in an isolated area, stay inside your car with the doors locked and the windows up. If someone wants to help, ask them to call for assistance. If you break down or run out of gasoline on the highway, do not leave your car if you are alone. Eventually the police or someone else will offer assistance. If you are with a group and you want to walk ahead, walk with at least two people and leave at least two people in the car. In all cases, it is not wise to leave the car unattended.If you see a motorist stranded, it is safest not to stop to help unless you know the driver. If you want to help, call for assistance for the stranded motorist. Many people, especially women, are robbed or attacked when they stop to help someone who seems to have car trouble.When using public transportation, wait in busy, well-lit areas. Sit near the driver, especially if the bus is nearly empty. When you exit the bus, be aware of those who may depart with you.
    6. Hitchhiking. Hitchhiking is unsafe, and should be avoided. If you have no other choice, hitchhiking is safest when done during the daytime and/or with someone else. Wear clothes that are as conservative as possible; suggestive or provocative clothing may convey a message, regardless of your own intentions. Carry keys or some other item as potential self-defense. Do not accept a ride from someone who speeds by and then slams on the brakes or changes directions just to pick you up. Ask the driver about destination before getting into the car; if possible, be familiar with the route that you should take so that you can be aware of any wrong turns.If you find yourself in a situation where you believe jumping from the car is necessary, be certain that you can jump and remain clear from traffic. You will risk less injury if you dive out of the car head first, rather than feet first. As you jump out head first, reach for the ground with your hands. As your hands contact the ground, absorb the force of the impact by bending your elbows. At the same time, tuck your chin and curve your back to initiate a roll. Bracing yourself by keeping your limbs stiff or locked risks greater injury.Picking up hitchhikers is equally dangerous and should be avoided. If you still opt to pick up a stranger, be on guard. Ask the rider to place all belongings in the back seat before getting into your car.
    7. Jay-walking. Some students choose to cross the East Beltline at very hazardous locations. Since most traffic travels the East Beltline between 50-60 miles/hour, jay-walking the East Beltline is extremely dangerous. The college has provided a tunnel under the East Beltline for automotive and a walkway over it for pedestrian traffic. In addition, the State Highway Department has installed signals on the corner of Burton and the East Beltline, and just north of Burton, that allow pedestrians to cross this busy highway most safely.
    8. Walking on/off campus. The safest time to walk is during daylight hours. If you must walk at night, walk on well-lit routes. If sidewalks are dark, walk near curbs or in the middle of streets. Walk facing oncoming traffic so as to minimize the chance of being surprised from behind. If you frequently walk to the same destination at approximately the same time, vary your route occasionally. Walk briskly and with purpose. If you appear to know where you are going, you are less likely to be followed.If you suspect that someone is following you, do not hesitate to confidently turn around to check if you are being followed. If your suspicions are confirmed, make noise-even scream, blow a whistle, or make a scene. Noise is often successful in preventing an attack. If you are being followed by someone in a car, turn and run in the opposite direction that the car is headed. If you are being followed, and you know that no one is at your home, do not stop; continue on to a neighbor’s house.
    9. Mugging. When walking, it is advisable not to carry large amounts of cash. In addition, keeping your house key separate from your purse or backpack is important. If your assailant is armed, do not resist. Protect your person; you are more valuable than your possessions. Make every effort to observe identifying features and characteristics of the assailant. Try to obtain the make, model, year, and license plate number of a getaway car if one is involved. Note the exact time and location of the incident, and the direction of the escape.
    10. Thefts. Thefts, loss of property, or any other incidents involving the safety or security of the students or the seminary should be reported to the College Campus Safety Department immediately, and to your RD or RA if you live in college housing, or the seminary housing director if you live in seminary housing.
  3. Rape/Date Rape

    Rape is an act of violence in which sex is used to dominate and control the victim. Relatively few rapes are committed by strangers. In fact, it is estimated that over 80% of all rapes are committed by acquaintances, friends, or relatives. Although women (and men) of all ages can be victims of rape, young women between the ages of 13-25 are the most frequent victims of acquaintance/date rape. A recent survey of Calvin College students suggests that 11.5% of Calvin College females have experienced rape. Seventy percent of these women were raped by an acquaintance.

    In Michigan, the Criminal Sexual Conduct Code defines sexual assault as any sexual contact forced upon a nonconsenting person. “Criminal sexual conduct” (CSC) includes penetration of any body opening, touching sexual areas of the body, or attempting to penetrate or touch these areas. The law further outlines four degrees of criminal sexual conduct. Maximum sentence depends on the amount of force used and the amount of personal injury to the victim. Sentences range from two years for fourth degree CSC to life in prison for first degree.

  4. Rape Prevention

    Rape prevention includes taking reasonable precautions and avoiding high-risk situations. Look out for each other’s welfare; check up on each other; walk in groups; never jog alone after dark; ensure that your residence is as secure as possible, including adequate outside lighting.

    Women can also reduce their risk of becoming a rape victim by understanding that sexual assaults often progress through three stages.

    1. The first stage is Selection. During this stage, the assailant observes prospective victims at a distance. The assailant looks for someone who is accessible and vulnerable. To determine a woman’s perceived vulnerability, he may observe her body language. He is looking for someone whom he can easily overpower, such as someone who looks preoccupied, fearful, timid, and so on. He may also observe what the woman is wearing to see if it would aid or hinder escape. To avoid being selected at this stage, one should first of all consider avoiding high risk situations. Second, be aware of your surroundings. Third, look vigilant and project an air of confidence. In short, try to convey the message that you would not be an easy victim.
    2. The second stage is Testing. Many rapes are preceded by a period of interaction between the assailant and the victim, ranging between two minutes to two hours. It may start as a friendly impersonal conversation, which is intended as a screening process. If a woman is assertive and maintains assertive body language (i.e., erect body posture, feet about shoulder width apart, arms at the side of the body rather than crossed at front, good eye contact, etc.), she will likely be passed over as a prospective victim. It is very important during this stage that the woman trusts her feelings. If she feels uneasy, there is probably a very good reason for it. Those women who trust their feelings and bring the conversation to a close are less likely to be assaulted. Those who continue to be polite, in spite of their uneasiness, are more likely to be attacked.
    3. The final stage is Force. This is the stage where the assailant uses physical force/violence to control a woman. The victim has a greater chance of escape if she makes a lot of noise and fights back.

    In summary, you can significantly reduce the chance of being assaulted by taking reasonable precautions, being vigilant, trusting your intuitions, and conveying to a would-be assailant during the first two stages that you would not be a compliant, passive victim.

    1. Advice to Women

      Concerning your own vulnerability to date rape, think through your limits on sexual activity beforehand. Communicate those limits clearly. For the first few dates consider going to public places with another couple or group. Do not accept rides from a male you just met. Stay sober. Trust your feelings and inner warnings; be willing to remove yourself from the situation if you feel unsafe. Do not be afraid to create an awkward social moment. If you are worried about hurting his feelings, remember that he is ignoring yours. If sexual activity is forced on you by an acquaintance, you have several options. First, say “no” strongly. Be assertive. Do not smile, act friendly, or polite. You might say, “Stop it; this is rape!” This can shock your acquaintance into stopping. If he does not stop after you have confronted him, do not be afraid to leave. There is no shame in escaping a situation in which your health and safety are at risk. If necessary, scream and run to safety. If he prevents you from leaving, and the assault escalates, consider striking one of the target areas (described in Section 3. below).

    2. Advice to Men

      Sexual excitement never justifies forced sex. When a woman says “no,” it’s time to back off. Do not read her response as personal rejection; she is simply saying no to an unwanted activity. If you feel that you are receiving mixed messages, ask for clarification. Remember, if a woman does not give consent (or is unable to because of intoxication or drug use), forced sexual activity is a crime.

    3. Self-defense

      If you are attacked, try to remain calm. Concentrate on slow, deep breathing to reduce panic. Each situation is different. In some cases, clear thinking may allow you to escape. If your assailant is armed, however, your options are limited.

      There are two types of resistance one can use in an assaultive situation. The first type is passive resistance. It includes begging, pleading, crying, slapping, verbal stalling, and so on. This type of resistance correlates with more violent attacks. It is important to understand that rape is not a sexual act per se, but an act of dominance and control. Thus, the assailant is looking for someone whom he can terrorize, control, or dominate. Passive resistance, then, may have a higher probability of “turning on” an assailant.

      The second type of resistance is active resistance. It includes verbal confrontation and/or yelling, as well as strikes to vulnerable target areas. This type of resistance gives an assailant the message that you will do whatever it takes to avoid rape. Research shows that, with a weaponless attack, a woman can escape 86% of the time if she fights back aggressively.

      The following are six major target areas along the front of the body: eyes, nose, throat, solar plexus, testicles, and knees. In a life-threatening situation, strikes should be aimed at the eyes, throat, and/or knees. Strikes to these areas may disable the attacker rather than just cause pain. In any assaultive situation, one’s primary objective must be to escape. Additionally, one should do only that which is necessary to escape. For instance, if one could escape by using confrontation skills only, that is the best option. Strikes to the eyes, throat or knees should be used as a last resort.

      Having said this about self-defense, it should be recognized that many people in a rape situation are so shocked, panicked, numbed, and confused that they are unable to take any action. This may be especially so if the assailant is someone the victim knows and has trusted. Complicating matters in cases of date/acquaintance rape, the woman may minimize or discount her fears until it is too late to effectively defend herself. Furthermore, the circumstances of some assaults may be such that fighting back is not a viable option. It is important, therefore, not to place blame on the victim by second guessing what she could have done to avoid the assault.

  5. In the Event of Sexual Assault
    • Go to a safe place
    • Call the YWCA Rape Crisis Hotline 776-RAPE (776-7273)
    • or if you are on campus, call Campus Safety x3333
    • or Grand Rapids Police: 456-3400
    • or 911 in a medical emergency situation
    • Call a member of the Calvin Response Team for Sexual Assault (957-6123 or see previous listing above) to help you decide how to proceed. Don’t try to go through this alone.
    • Do not wash, eat, chew gum, brush your teeth, drink, douche, or change clothes.
    • Do not blame yourself.

    If you call the YWCA Rape Crisis Hotline, rape crisis personnel will help you decide what to do. If you have serious physical injuries, you will be advised to go to the nearest hospital emergency room. If you are not seriously injured, and would like to make a police report, a highly trained, on-call response team will be dispatched to meet you at the YWCA Rape Crisis Center (25 Sheldon SE). This team will include a trained volunteer who will offer support and answer your questions; a nurse, who will perform a medical examination and provide treatment; and, a police officer, who will provide security. If you are not seriously injured, and would prefer not to make a police report, you will be encouraged to schedule a medical exam at the YWCA, during regular business hours.

    It is important to follow through with a physical exam following a rape so that you can be treated for possible injuries, and/or sexually transmitted diseases. The exam is especially important if you decide to press charges, so that evidence can be collected and documented. In order to avoid destroying any evidence, do not bathe or clean yourself or change your clothes. Additionally, if you were forced to engage in oral sex, do not chew gum, brush your teeth, or eat or drink anything. Even if you have done any or all of the above, a medical exam to collect physical evidence can still be done within 72 hours of the assault. You should know, if you do not have a medical exam, and choose not to make a police report within 72 hours after the assault, chances of successful prosecution are low.

    In addition to calling the YWCA Rape Crisis Hot Line, you may also contact a member of the Calvin Response Team for Sexual Assault, and ask them to meet you at the YWCA or at an emergency room (if you have severe injuries) for additional support and/or guidance.

    1. Police Contact

      When reporting the crime, contact the police in the municipality in which the sexual assault occurred. If you are unsure of the location, or if it occurred on campus, contact the Grand Rapids Police at 456-3400. Calvin College Campus Safety Department (957-6452) is also available for assistance. For Kentwood police, dial 698-6580; East Grand Rapids police, dial 949-7010; Wyoming police, dial 530-7300. A Response Team for Sexual Assault member can be helpful to you in sorting out your decisions. Free legal information and support is also available through the Victim Witness Services Program in Grand Rapids at 336-2856.

    2. Procedures for On-campus Disciplinary Action

      In date rape the victim may fear that she will be blamed or disciplined for the rape. This is not the case. On the contrary, Calvin Theological Seminary is committed to sensitive and fair handling of sexual assault situations with healing, safety of others, and justice as primary concerns.

      The student considering formal charges against another student may initially talk to the dean of students, the vice president for administration, the president or a member of the Broene Counseling Center, to learn about procedures and options. Please see the Student Conduct Code in this handbook for further details.

      The standard of proof (both college and seminary) is based on a “preponderance of evidence” which is different than criminal charges which must create belief “beyond a reasonable doubt” in order to convict. Possible sanctions for sexual assault can extend over the entire range, including dismissal, depending on the severity of the incident.


  6. Sexual, Racial, and other Harassment

    [A new policy statement is in the process of being prepared. It will be added to the Student Handbook as soon as possible.]

  7. Fire Alarm

    The fire alarm is a continuous or pulsed blast of the firehorn. All classes should be dismissed at once. Students should be instructed to leave the building, using the nearest exit. Students will be notified when to return to their classes.

  8. SevereWeather Warnings

    The Campus Safety Dispatcher is kept informed about weather conditions through the National Weather Service. Normal class schedules will be maintained during a weather alert unless otherwise directed.

    In the event of a “tornado warning,” classes will be suspended immediately, and all persons must take cover in the nearest basement away from glass doors and windows.

  9. Lost and Found

    All lost and found articles should be taken to the receptionist area. Lost articles may also be reported to the College Campus Safety Department.