On Monday, several Michigan lawmakers proposed new legislation during a Michigan House of Representatives meeting to fight sexual assault and harassment in response to the Larry Nassar trials, #MeToo movement and #TimesUp movement. The call for new policy has a specific focus on college campuses in the hopes of increasing prevention, education and protection services.

In early February, Nassar received his third sentence of 40 to 125 years for sexual assault charges. A total of  260 reports against Nassar included those of Olympic gymnasts Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman, as well as countless other women who were assaulted under his treatment as a former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor. These reports of abuse contribute to the thousands of women who have recently come into the spotlight under the banner of #MeToo, accusing actorspoliticiansuniversity officials and men of sexual assault and harassment across the nation.

At the House meeting, state Rep. Kristy Pagan, D-Canton, spoke in favor of improved funding for prevention education as well as a potential requirement for health care facilities to ensure all minors are aware of their rights during examinations, specifically that they may be accompanied by a parent, guardian or other adult during the examination.

Pagan also noted the state of Michigan currently allocates no funding for rape prevention and services within the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services. She proposed a $1 million allocation from the state budget for these services. This would require an increase in federal funding in Michigan.

“We are one of the only states in the country that does not have any money going toward sexual assault prevention,
 Pagan said. This leaves a striking gap in providing these services to nonprofits. We are only able to fund 18 nonprofits that focus on sexual assaults throughout our entire state. And these 18 nonprofits are only able to cover 33 of Michigan’s 83 counties.” 

State Rep. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, spoke on the current lack of protection for survivors of sexual assault and harassment on college campuses. She proposed the creation of a Title IX ombudsman within the Department of Civil Rights who would become a resource for survivors and help protect them from potential retaliation or intimidation.

“Creating a Title IX ombudsman would help to strengthen the laws on Title IX reporting and ensure that victims and survivors are given the support and help that they need,” Geiss said. “Creating this Title IX ombudsman would reaffirm Michigan’s commitment to protecting those who are victims of unwanted sexual behaviors.”

State Rep. Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township, argued in favor of eliminating the current “10-year statute of limitations for charging or filing a civil lawsuit against a person suspected of committing a sexual assault on a person under the age of 16,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

“We know that for adults, the processing of a sexual assault is very difficult,” she said. “For those who are minors when the assault occurred, we know that these are some of our most vulnerable citizens. It is disgusting and inhumane to take away a child’s innocence and to rush them through (the) process of what it takes for them to reconcile what has happened to them.”

Lasinski also proposed a law should be put in place to require health facilities to begin investigations of a report of sexual assault against a health professional within 48 hours.

The Universities’ chapters of College Democrats and College Republicans did not comment in time for publication.

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