Our Special Victims Unit (SVU) of the U-M Police Department (UMPD) assists those who have experienced interpersonal violence, such as sexual assault, intimate partner violence, dating violence, stalking or child abuse. Our officers ensure survivors are treated with compassion and respect while navigating the criminal justice system and prioritize holding offenders accountable.
SVU conducts thorough investigations of interpersonal violence incidents and helps guide survivors throughout the process. Additionally, we work closely with various organizations to connect survivors with a variety of resources including:
- Medical assistance
- Police reports
- Safety planning
- Personal Protection Orders
- Accommodations for housing, academics, transportation and work
- Counseling and support groups
- Legal advocacy
We partner with confidential and free advocacy groups, such as U-M’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) and SafeHouse Center.
The Special Victims Unit (SVU) aims to:
- Educate the public to help prevent interpersonal violence incidents
- Increase reporting of interpersonal violence
- Conduct thorough investigations
- Hold offenders accountable
SVU officers start by believing and have expertise in the trauma-informed approach. Our survivor-centered investigative process is designed to better serve the special needs of survivors and reduce barriers to reporting. Through our educational outreach efforts, we also aim to stop interpersonal violence before it happens.
- In an emergency, always call 911.
- To report an incident or contact SVU, call (734) 763-1131.
What we investigate
If someone has unwanted sexual contact with you without your consent, this is sexual assault, which is a crime. SVU can help connect you with the resources you need and guide you through the criminal justice process. For information about reporting sexual assault and steps to take immediately after an assault, visit our Sexual Assault Reporting page.
Sexual assault facts
- If you are sexually assaulted, you are not to blame, regardless of the circumstances.
- About 90% of sexual assaults on campus involve survivors and perpetrators who knew each other, according to a National Institute for Justice study.
- Sexual assault is defined under Michigan Law as non-consensual sexual contact or sexual penetration. See Michigan Law (MCL 750.520 a-f):
A U-M guide, Our Community Matters, can help you or someone you know, make decisions about what to do if a sexual assault has occurred.
Medical Exam and Treatment
Survivors of sexual assault should seek medical treatment immediately. You have a right under Michigan law to a forensic medical examination and evidence kit collected up to 120 hours (five days) after an assault in order to ensure you receive the treatment you need and preserve any evidence of the assault. You do not have to file a police report to have evidence collected. The forensic exam will be administered by a registered nurse who has received advanced training to provide care and treatment to sexual assault survivors. The nurse also can provide emergency contraception, treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other needed medical care. Sexual assault forensic exams should be provided at no cost and will not be billed to medical insurance without your consent. You can obtain a forensic exam and evidence kit at any of these facilities:
- The Emergency Department at University Hospital (734) 936-6666
- University Health Services (UHS) (during designated hours) (734) 764-8325
- St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Emergency Department (734) 572-3000
For more information about evidence collection and steps to take immediately after an assault, visit our Sexual Assault Reporting page.
Mandatory Health Service Reporting
If you seek evidence collection through any of these facilities, the police will be contacted; however, it is up to you whether to share any information with law enforcement. We strongly encourage you to file a police report; however, if you choose not to file a police report at the time the kit is completed, the medical facility where the evidence was collected will retain it for at least one year. An advocate from SAPAC can be available at the medical facility to provide information and support for University of Michigan students, staff or faculty. An advocate from SafeHouse Center also can be available upon request. You do not have to speak with an advocate unless you choose to do so.
How to support a survivor of sexual assault
- Let the survivor know right away if you have any mandated responsibility to report the crime so they can make informed decisions about whether and how much information to share with you.
- Listen to what the survivor is telling you without interruption. Allow the survivor to lead the conversation and share as little or as much as they choose.
- Believe that the survivor is telling you what they feel happened. Refrain from asking questions, especially that focus on the survivor’s actions, choices, appearance or prior experience.
- Encourage the survivor to report the incident to law enforcement.
- Refer and connect the survivor to trained professionals for comprehensive crisis intervention, advocacy and support. UMPD SVU officers and SAPAC advocates are the campus experts on responding to survivors of sexual assault.
- Support the survivor in whatever way is requested, to the degree you are able. Respect the decisions that the survivor makes, even if you don’t agree with them. Do not take it personally if the survivor does not want your help.
For safety information, go to our Sexual Assault Awareness page.
If you have experienced intimidation, physical assault, sexual assault or other abuse by an intimate partner, this is domestic violence and it’s a crime. It is important to understand that domestic violence is not just physical abuse—it also can be emotional and psychological abuse which can be just as dangerous. Often children are the silent victims of domestic violence, making it especially important to take action. Our SVU can help end the systematic pattern of power and control by an abuser. We can assist you with filing reports, obtaining medical treatment, safety planning and requesting a Personal Protection Order.
For more information on red flags and signs of an abusive partner, visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCDV) website.
Michigan Law (MCL 750.81) requires law enforcement agencies with information about a domestic violence incident to respond to, investigate and make an arrest of the offender when probable cause exists to do so. In these cases, survivors do not “press charges”—under state law, the State of Michigan is the complainant.
Stalking is a crime which involves any unwanted (usually repeated) contact by a perpetrator that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places another person in fear. If you or someone you know is being stalked, please contact the UMPD immediately. In addition to investigating and prosecuting stalkers, our SVU can help victims, including notifying the suspect to have no further contact, requesting a Personal Protection Order, safety planning and connecting with counseling services and other resources.
It is important to understand that stalking is not flattery—it is a stalker’s attempt to control and exert power over someone else. A stalker may be someone you know or a stranger. Some stalking behaviors include:
- Making repeated and unwanted phone calls, texts, emails or social media messages
- Following you and showing up wherever you are
- Damaging your home, car or other property
- Leaving gifts or other items
Stalking is defined under Michigan State Law (MCL 750.411h) as a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested.
For more information about stalking, including resources and prevention strategies, visit our safety tips page.
If you become aware of any physical, sexual or emotional maltreatment and/or neglect of a child on campus, please contact UMPD immediately. Our officers will work with staff from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and with the University Hospital Child Protection Team to respond to any reported incidents of abuse of children on our campus. Our SVU also works with the Washtenaw County Child Advocacy Center to conduct forensic interviews of children who may be victims in these cases.
WHO WE ARE
Lead Police Officer, Special Victims Unit Coordinator
Investigations Coordinator Margie Pillsbury
Detective Sgt. Paula Williams
Detective Sean Taylor
Investigator Abby Elliott
Police Officer Kaitlin Deslatte
Police Officer Ben Poniatowski
Police Officer Elaine McLenaghan
Police Officer Jeremy Raiford
Police Officer Karl Wancha
A special guide, Our Community Matters, has been developed by the university to help you make decisions about what to do when a sexual assault occurs.
For more information on domestic violence and stalking, visit the U-M’s Abuse Hurts webpage.