Bills aim to prevent sexual abuse of youth and medical patients

Print More

Capital News Service

LANSING – Minors would learn about sexual consent as early as sixth grade and young patients could not receive pelvic treatment without parental consent under a package of bills designed to prevent sexual abuse.

The bills would provide to schools educational, age-appropriate materials to help students identify sexual assault and harassment, targeting grades 6 to 12. Another measure requires medical records to report treatment involving penetration and that an additional individual be present during certain medical examinations of minors.

When she developed a fellowship program to empower young women of color, the students told her they needed help recognizing sexual assault, Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit said at a recent  committee meeting. That was an important wake-up call, she said. 

One of those students testified. 

“Speaking to a lot of these youths, it scares me because it’s not just in college where we have to worry about it. It’s when they’re 12, 13, 14 years old,” said Lydia Maciel, a former fellow of Chang’s program and advocate for protection and prevention against sexual violence.

The legislation would help young people recognize when sexual assault happens to them and what resources they can rely on for help, particularly in being aware of manipulation tactics that abusers may use to gain trust and access to their victims.

The informational materials would also teach that sexual assault is not the fault of the victim. 

“We need to make sure that young people learn about sexual assault so that if their friend discloses it to them that they have some level of understanding and information,” Chang said.

The Department of Education would develop age-appropriate information with the Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board and the Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, Chang said.

The material would be included in the school handbook or similar publication and on the school’s web page. The legislation would require educators and school employees with training every five years on how to respond to students who have experienced assault or harassment, Chang said.

As a survivor of sexual abuse perpetrated by a family member, Maciel said that there’s a huge gap of education within schools about what consent in sexual encounters means and how manipulation and coercion play an integral role in perpetrating sexual violence.

“I didn’t know what I was doing or what they were asking me. I was 12,” Maciel said.

Other bills address sexual misconduct under the pretext of medical treatment. They are in response to two of Michigan’s largest cases involving doctors performing sexual assault under the guise of medical treatment.

“Their actions are not only textbook perpetrator behavior, but also the largest institutional failures to date,” said Trinea Gonczar, a survivor of Larry Nassar, a former Michigan State University doctor who was convicted of felony criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. Gonczar is the director of development at the Avalon Healing Center, an organization that provides forensic examination and crisis intervention to survivors of sexual violence. 

Gonczar said that the main hindrance to her performance in her sport came from an injury in her hips and lower back, but upon requesting her medical files from MSU Sports Medicine, found no documents pertaining to the pelvic floor examinations or lower back and hip injury. 

She said that she later learned the procedures, which started for her at age 8, would never be done to a non-pubescent child, especially without the practitioner using gloves or lubrication. 

Under this legislation, Nassar and other disgraced doctors involved in other scandals would have had to document these procedures, providing patients and parents with verifiable proof of wrongdoing when they were piecing together what happened, said Sen. Roger Hauck, R-Mount Pleasant. 

The legislation creates penalties for intentionally omitting these procedures from a patient’s medical records in another bill sponsored by Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet, D-Bay City.

“No one wants to stand here today as me, as a victim and a survivor of sexual assault of a doctor so trusted,” Gonczar said.

Comments are closed.