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Sex abuse, reporting bills pass Michigan House

The exterior of the Michigan Capitol building
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio
The Michigan Capitol building in Lansing

Bills to encourage reporting child and sex abuse, and to outlaw using one’s influence to stop someone from reporting that abuse, passed the Michigan House Wednesday.

Collectively, the six-bill package aims to prevent further sex abuse crimes like those committed by former Michigan State University athletics doctor Larry Nassar.

Representative Graham Filler (R-St. Johns) sponsors one of the bills in the package. He said an issue in that case was the number of people who covered for Nassar.

“This bill package goes directly to that to challenge those people and to allow prosecutors to go after those people directly for lying and for exactly what he did, which was hiding his sexual assault under medical coverage,” Filler said.

Under the bills, medical professionals could lose their license for engaging in sexual contact under the pretext of medical treatment.

Representative Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo) is among the leaders who took charge in getting the package through the House. One of the bills she sponsored would provide more guidance for mandatory reporters.

“My profession is physical therapy, we were a newly added mandatory reporter in the last few years, and I’ve heard from some of my colleagues they’re not quite sure what to look for, what to document. And so, my bill specifically addresses those kinds of situations and says that employers need to provide training so people know how to go about reporting,” Rogers said.

The sixth bill in the package would stop schools from handing out expulsions or long suspensions to a student because of their actions leading up to or following a reported sexual assault. It aims to curb the underreporting of incidents on school grounds by taking away immediate punishments for things like being in a part of the school where students weren’t supposed to be.

Representative Carol Glanville (D-Walker) highlighted that language, protecting students who come forward, as also important.

“Students or kids or athletes, they might go to a friend or something like that, so as the story comes out, to not have people feeling that retaliation or intimidation. You know, we’ve really allowed these predators to hide behind their reputation,” Glanville said.

The House bills’ passage comes just weeks after the Michigan Senate passed eight partner bills of its own. Rogers said she plans to start holding hearings on the bills assigned to her committee Thursday.