Sexual assault reforms clear Senate committee

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Sen. Ken Horn

Sen. Ken Horn

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Ken Horn joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce legislation Tuesday aimed at further curbing sexual assaults in the state of Michigan.

The bills were announced at a press conference Monday afternoon with victims of the convicted Michigan State University Doctor, Dr. Larry Nassar.

“There are so many victims who are fighting a daily battle known only to them,” said Horn, R-Frankenmuth. “This is about supporting and protecting victims, but also giving them the ability to come forward when they are ready.”

The 10-bill package 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.

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.

“People heal differently,” Horn said. “Not everyone is able to immediately come forward to assist in bringing their perpetrator to justice. By expanding the tools available to prosecutors, while also allowing victims more time to come forward, and the ability to come forward anonymously, I hope we can prevent something like the Nassar case from ever happening again.”

Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, the package’s lead sponsor, added that adjusting the statute of limitations will allow prosecutors to crack down on abusers and prevent them from hiding behind an expired clock.

“This package of bills should put fear into the heart of any possible perpetrator,” O’Brien said. “It’s my hope that these bills will prevent someone from offending. But if they don’t, justice will be served.”

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

“Recent events have cast a dark shadow over the state of Michigan,” Horn said. “It’s a disappointment on a number of levels — there are so many adults who failed these young women. While my heart hurts for all of the victims, I applaud the strength and courage it took to face their abuser in court and work with lawmakers to make sure these horrific events never happen again.”

The bills received approval from the Senate Committee on Judiciary Tuesday afternoon and will now go before the full Senate for consideration.