Legislators Unveil Principles to Protect Survivors of Sexual Assault
LANSING — Members of the Progressive Women’s Caucus (PWC) announced solution-oriented legislative principles today aimed at combating sexual assault on college campuses. Over the last year, several legislative proposals have been introduced to address campus sexual assault. The PWC’s principles expand on these bipartisan conversations about how we can prevent tragedies like the Nassar case from ever happening again. Today’s announcement is the culmination of months of work to holistically address campus sexual assault through prevention, protection and accountability.
“The Progressive Women’s Caucus wants to let every survivor know: we stand with you, we see you and we support you,” said state Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), chairwoman of the PWC. “For too long, survivors of sexual assault on college campuses have been ignored, threatened and censored into silence. Time is up and we need to take action at the Capitol. I am optimistic that our efforts in collaboration with legislators on both sides of the aisle will result in real change for women and girls in Michigan.”
According to the Association of American Universities’ 2015 Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, 1 in 4 women report having been sexually assaulted by the time they graduate college. The PWC’s Campus Sexual Assault package focuses on legislative reforms to strengthen university, community and state responses to incidents of sexual assault on campus, as well as to reinforce protections for students on campus and in university health facilities. This includes:
- Prevention: Ensure young people in Michigan have a comprehensive education on the importance of consent, what constitutes sexual assault, and available resources, as well as their rights during sensitive medical procedures.
- Protection: Expand programs that provide support to sexual assault survivors and strengthen Title IX resources so students who report sexual assault or violence are protected from intimidation or retaliation.
- Accountability: Hold individuals accountable for reporting sexual assault and expand the statute of limitations to ensure survivors have more time to come forward and pursue both criminal and civil penalties.
“Our college campuses must be safe havens where people can learn and grow, without fear for their safety or wellbeing. Unfortunately, that has not been the case as predators like Larry Nassar have been given free reign throughout our state’s academic institutions,” said state Rep. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), vice-chairwoman of the PWC. “As an adjunct professor on a college campus, I understand all too well how derailing it can be for a student who is sexually assaulted to continue their studies uninterrupted. We owe it to survivors everywhere to show them that we believe them and we support them.”
This proposal comes at a pivotal moment as sexual assault has become a focal point in state and national politics following the #MeToo movement and the on-going Larry Nassar investigations. The timing of this package is even more critical after U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ended 2017 by revoking guidance on sexual assault on college campuses, beginning a softer approach on perpetrators of sexual assault and violence.
“Sexual assault is not just a Michigan State or a Larry Nassar issue. There is a culture of sexual assault and harassment that not only permeates our college campuses, but our communities, workplaces and throughout our day-to-day lives,” said state Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton), co-chair of the PWC’s Gender Violence Task Force. “As the national spotlight remains on Michigan in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal, we must not only be diligent in our response to ensure that all survivors are heard, valued and believed, but we must also take meaningful action to ensure something like this never happens again. Our response should be focused on solutions, not politics, so that all survivors have access to the unique support they need to move forward and heal.”
Joining Reps. Chang, Geiss, Pagan and Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township), secretary of the PWC, for the announcement were House Democratic Floor Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) and state Reps. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), Pam Faris (D-Clio) and Tenisha Yancey (D-Harper Woods).