Leaders come together to prevent sexual assault and assist survivors

LANSING — April is nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and today, a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers held a press conference at the state Capitol to encourage education, awareness and community involvement to help prevent sexual violence and create a safer environment for everyone.

“Sexual violence is a widespread, intolerable crime that impacts women, children and men of all racial, cultural and economic backgrounds,” said state Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton). “It is a prevalent and serious public health concern, and we must continue to take steps to raise awareness, prevent sexual violence and assist survivors. I truly appreciate the leadership of First Lady Sue Snyder on this issue and the continued efforts of my colleagues. I look forward to working with anyone who is committed to ending sexual violence once and for all.”

To highlight the need to address sexual assault, state Reps. Pagan and Laura Cox (R-Livonia) introduced resolutions in the House to declare April 2017 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the state of Michigan and Campus Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in the state of Michigan. Companion resolutions were also introduced in the Senate.

“Sexual assault is a serious issue plaguing college campuses across the state,” said Rep. Cox. “The goal of the legislation that I introduced with Sens. Schuitmaker and Warren allows courts to properly take into consideration a suspect’s history of sexual assault as we work to take these dangerous predators off our streets. This legislation will be an important tool in cold case prosecutions, to help hold serial sexual assault perpetrators accountable. I am proud to be a part of the team that’s helping to put an end to sexual assault on and off campuses throughout the state of Michigan.”

The legislators also highlighted Senate Bills 152 and 153, and House Bill 4190, a bipartisan package currently moving through the Legislature that seeks to provide more support to sexual assault survivors.

“Victims of sexual assault deserve to have their voices heard,” said state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton). “I will continue to fight to ensure victims receive the best care available and to bring awareness to this horrific crime that can affect anyone.”

“Sexual assault is not confined to certain neighborhoods or limited by demographics,” said state Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor). “It affects everyone. Increasing the availability of sexual assault medical forensic examinations and supportive services will ensure that victims from all walks of life will have a place to go to seek treatment and begin moving forward as survivors.”

Roughly 1 in 6 women will be the victim of sexual assault in her lifetime, and statistics show that sexual violence is more prevalent in college in comparison to other crimes.

Lore A. Rogers, staff attorney for the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board, and Kathy Hagenian, executive policy director for the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence, also attended the press conference. First Lady Sue Snyder has also been an integral partner in the effort to end sexual violence in Michigan, especially when it comes to addressing the specific needs of our college campuses.

“It is an honor to join my partners in the Legislature to help raise awareness for sexual assault and campus sexual assault,” said Snyder. “I am proud of the work we have done to make Michigan a model state in addressing this difficult yet important issue, and I look forward to continuing our work to keep Michigan’s students safer on campus.”
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