Senate passes bipartisan bills aimed at preventing sexual assault

Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) speaking at the Bans Off Our Bodies protest in Lansing on May 3, 2022 | Allison R. Donahue

By Laina G. Stebbins, Michigan Advance

A bipartisan bill package aimed at preventing sexual assault and protecting survivors cleared the Michigan Senate on Tuesday, nearly two years after the measures were first introduced.

Senate Bill 223 requires schools to provide age-appropriate educational material and resources regarding sexual assault and harassment to students.

SB 224 prohibits sexual contact and penetration under pretext of medical treatment. Sponsors say this fixes a loophole that enabled disgraced former USA Gymnastics and MSU doctor Larry Nassar and others to sexually assault young women and children under the guise of medical treatment.

The bill makes any such crime a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

SB 225 provides further sentencing guidelines to that end, while SB 226 creates guidelines for when consent is required during medical treatment and when an additional individual should be present during certain examinations of minors.

Finally, SB 227 provides sentencing guidelines for the crime of performing certain medical treatments on a minor without consent and another individual present.

State Sens. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway), Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), Lana Theis (R-Brighton) and Ruth Johnson (R-Groveland Twp.) first introduced the bills in March 2021.

“When we first introduced these bills, several people reached out to me to let me know that if our bills had become law years ago, maybe they could have been able to stop the sexual abuse that they or their family member had experienced as a child,” Chang said in a statement Tuesday, adding that the bills had been in the works since 2018.

“Change on this issue is long overdue and there is more work yet to be done. … One in 9 girls under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult. We must do all we can to prevent future sexual misconduct from happening and protect survivors.”

Chang said the bills were created in consultation with “survivors, experts, community organizations, advocacy groups, educators, parents, and more to ensure we were approaching the issue of sexual assault from every angle, sealing cracks in the law that may allow future predators to get away with such a heinous crime.”

The bills now head to the House for consideration. There are only a few session days left this year.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: [email protected]. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

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