Senate Committee Advances Sexual Assault Legislation

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would combat sexual assault and allow survivors to receive important protections in the state of Michigan.

“It is important that our laws protect those who are most vulnerable, including our children,” said Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage. “This legislation would put fear into the heart of any possible perpetrator. Justice must be served. My colleagues and I are taking swift action to get these much-needed protections into law.”

Senate Bills 871-880 would expand numerous existing laws and also create new protections in statute. The bills would update current law to allow prosecutors to bring charges of second-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) against a minor at any time after the act occurs, while also allowing charges of third-degree CSC against a minor up to the survivor’s 48th birthday, or within 30 years of an accuser being identified by DNA evidence.

“This comprehensive legislative package is long overdue in Michigan,” said Rachael Denhollander, a survivor of sexual assault. “It is desperately needed to bring our state to a place where the laws communicate the value of children and women and the seriousness of how sexual assault will be treated.”

The bills would also allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to remain publicly anonymous when bringing a claim in the Michigan Court of Claims and eliminate the current time limit for filing a claim.

The bills also increase reporting requirements for certain education employees and youth sports coaches. If passed, assistant coaches, athletic trainers and volunteers involved in youth athletic activities would all become mandatory reporters of child abuse. If an individual fails to report such crimes, they could face a felony of up to two years imprisonment, up to a $5,000 fine, or both.

“Our current justice system in the state of Michigan is a difficult system for survivors of sexual abuse to navigate,” said Sterling Riethman, a survivor of sexual assault. “This change to our legal system through this legislation will help prevent feeling victimized as a survivor of sexual abuse in our legal system.”

The legislation now heads before the full Senate for further consideration.


Photo caption: Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, was joined by Rachael Denhollander as they testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in support of a package of legislation that would combat sexual assault.