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Sexual assault bills, spurred by Nassar, continue to get pushback

Rachael Denhollander
Drew, Cooper & Anding
YouTube Video
Rachael Denhollander

Legislation to lengthen the amount of time victims of sexual assault have to file complaints continues to get pushback. The bills are part of a response to former Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar. He sexually assaulted his patients for years.

Part of bill package would lengthen the amount of time child victims of sexual assault have to file a civil lawsuit. The bills are currently in front of a state House committee. They recently passed out of the Senate.

Rachael Denhollander is one of the first women to publicly come forward about Nassar. She said she was frustrated that the Senate made some changes that lessened the impact of the bills.

“These women and these children they have names and they have faces, and they have stories, and they have lives that have been absolutely devastated,” she said. “And so I am disappointed that we had to do that. At the same I think it made the package one that should be very acceptable.”

Multiple victims of Larry Nassar say they didn’t realize as children that they were being sexually assaulted by him. In some cases, it took decades for them to realize his “treatment” was assault.

But Representative Lana Theis, R-Brighton, still has concerns about people that are accused being able to defend themselves decades after an event. She says her husband is a coach for young kids.

“He’s an incredible husband, an incredible father, wouldn’t dream of harming anybody and how does he defend himself if somebody comes to him and says 20 years ago this is what happened,” she said during a committee hearing on the bills Tuesday.

Others, like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Catholic Conference, have echoed Theis’s concerns about possible unintended consequences.

“I want to find a way to get justice but I don’t know that this is the way to do it,” she said.

Denhollander said it’s still on the victim to prove what happened.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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