Bipartisan package of bills focuses on addressing the barriers domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking survivors often face

LANSING, MICHIGAN – Today members of the House and Senate introduced a bipartisan plan to empower and support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking as they work to make new lives for themselves that are free from violence.

The eight-bill package works to assist survivors in the following ways:

Alleviate economic hardships:

  • Require employers who offer sick leave to allow survivors to use their leave time for issues that may arise due to sexual assault, domestic abuse, or stalking;
  • Allow survivors to apply for unemployment benefits if they must leave their job to protect their safety;
  • Prohibit a landlord or realtor from discriminating against survivors of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault;

Protect their confidential information:

  • Establish survivor confidentiality at the appellate court level;
  • Create a confidentiality program for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking, ensuring perpetrators are not able to find out their name, address, telephone number, or any other identifying information;

Prevent discrimination by our courts system:

  • Ensure that actions taken to protect themselves or their children from an abusive parent are not held against the survivor when the court is determining custody;
  • Require that the survivor consent to mediation before the court could order it in a domestic violence case;

Urge action on campus sexual assault:

  • Urge our state’s colleges and universities to update their policies and procedures dealing with sexual assault on campus.

_MG_8570-5x7“While we have made significant progress in our efforts to address violence against women, we have much more work to do, especially considering that a staggering one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime,” said State Senator Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor). “I am proud to work with this diverse group of legislators to mitigate some of the barriers survivors and their families too often face, and hopefully help them move an important step forward as they work to rebuild their lives.”

One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and on average, nearly 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.

“The mental and physical injuries inflicted by stalking, domestic violence and sexual assault are real and often severe,” Senator Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said. “Giving employees the freedom to use their sick time to recover is the right thing to do.”

“The collateral damage for survivors can be catastrophic, resulting in lost work days and even firing,” said Senator Hertel, Jr. (D-East Lansing). “Adding insult to very real injury, survivors are often disqualified from claiming unemployment benefits. That’s unacceptable.”

On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. Here in Michigan, there are 39 hotline calls to domestic violence programs every hour.

“When an employer already offers sick leave, an employee should be able to use that time to get to safety and seek justice,” said Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids). “No one should have to choose between safety and keeping a job, or between filing a police report and losing a day of pay.”
Growing concern over campus sexual assault has gained national attention, with Congress passing the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act in March of 2013, and President Obama subsequently establishing the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in January of 2014.

One in five women is sexually assaulted in college, and college-aged women are four times more likely than any other age group to face sexual assault. An alarming number of postsecondary institutions are currently under federal investigation for their handling of sexual violence reports, including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Grand Valley State University.