LANSING, Mich. — A bipartisan group of legislators introduced a legislative package on Thursday that would help the state better serve victims of sexual assault and provide prosecutors with more tools to bring perpetrators to justice.
“I have always made it a priority to fight for crime victims and ensure that they have access to the resources they need,” said Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “These bills make a wider array of services available to victims and support local sexual assault nurse examiners so they can continue providing the first line of care after an assault takes place.”
Senate Bill 152 and 153, sponsored by Schuitmaker and Sen. Rebekah Warren, and House Bill 4190, sponsored by Rep. Laura Cox, would allow courts to consider prior bad acts in cases of sexual assault, increase reimbursement rates to medical providers who offer services to victims, and create consistency in how service providers are compensated.
“Michigan has been a leader in combating sexual assault, both on college campuses and in our communities,” said Cox, R-Livonia. “This legislation allows courts to take into consideration a suspect’s history of sexual assault as we work to take these dangerous predators off our streets.”
Warren added that this is a statewide issue and we all must work together to fight it.
“Sexual assault is not confined to certain neighborhoods or limited by demographics. It affects everyone,” said Warren, D-Ann Arbor. “Creating consistency in how health providers are compensated will ensures that victims from all walks of life will have a place to go to seek treatment and begin moving forward as survivors.”
Currently in cases involving sexual assaults of minors, courts are permitted to consider evidence that suspects may have committed a previous offense. This legislation would allow courts to consider evidence of prior bad acts in any sexual assault.
The bills would also increase compensation for health care providers who offer certain services to victims related to gathering evidence of a sexual assault, as well as expand which entities are eligible to receive compensation for providing care and services to victims.
Debi Cain, executive director to the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention & Treatment Board, praised the legislation.
“This important package of bills will make an enormous difference for victims of sexual violence,” Cain said. “The bills enhance the safety net for sexual assault victims who choose to use the criminal justice system as a part of their healing process.
“The Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention & Treatment Board is deeply grateful to Senator Schuitmaker, Senator Warren, and Representative Cox for their unwavering work on behalf of sexual assault survivors.”
SBs 152 and 153 have been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, while HB 4190 has been referred to the House Committee on Law and Justice.