It’s been just about a year since we were riveted to our televisions as hundreds of survivors told their story of sexual abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar. Now, Michigan State is making sure that something like that never happens again.
President, Lou Anna K. Simon, stepped down in January, and the university felt pressure to change how sexual assault is handled.
Look now, and you’ll find people working hard to fix the problems. Debra Martinez is one of those people.
“I really enjoy making a change,” Martinez said.
Martinez is an investigator in the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX.
“We’re dealing with extremely serious issues involving sexual assault relationship violence stalking and we want to be sensitive to the needs of everyone involved and make sure we’re doing a thorough investigation,” Martinez said.
The office has struggled to keep up with the number of reports it receives, but interim associate vice president, Robert Kent, is changing that.
“We’ve changed the makeup of the office a little bit, we’ve hired additional investigators, we have additional investigators externally,” Kent said.
In the 2016-17 school year, the office received 718 reports. But in the 2017-18 school year, there were 1,168. That’s a 63% increase in reported incidents.
Looking deeper at last year, there were 783 reported incidents after January. So with the Nassar testimony that month, and the growth of the “Me Too” movement that followed, there were more reports in those seven months than there were during the entire previous year.
Kent feels there is a connection here.
“These numbers don’t represent something that wasn’t happening before, it’s just that now people are feeling empowered and comfortable coming forward and being able to speak up and we can help them,” Kent said.
Martinez says that the culture if finally changing at this university.
“I think Michigan State now is becoming a place where we’re telling people talk about it, bring us your issues, you don’t have to be quiet about it anymore be vocal we have recourses we have support tell us what happened so we can do something about it,” Kent said.