Sexual assault laws inspired by Larry Nassar's abuse are signed by Michigan's governor

Gretchen Whitmer
Posted at 1:36 PM, Jun 29, 2023

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Long-sought sexual assault measures in Michigan first introduced in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal will soon be implemented after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation Thursday.

The package will create stricter punishments for sexual assault under the guise of medical treatment and will protect students who report it. It will also require the creation and distribution of comprehensive training materials for people who are required to report suspected child abuse and neglect.

"These long overdue measures will protect and empower sexual assault survivors, prevent others from being victimized, and hold offenders accountable," Angela Povilaitis, a lead prosecutor in the Nassar trials, said in a statement.

Nassar, a former sports doctor, is serving decades in prison for convictions in state and federal courts. He admitted sexually assaulting athletes when he worked at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. Separately, Nassar pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography.

During victim impact statements in 2018, several athletes testified that over the course of Nassar's more than two decades of sexual abuse they had told adults what was happening, including coaches and athletic trainers, but that it went unreported.

Under the legislation signed by Whitmer, individuals who use their professional authority over another person to prevent the reporting of crimes could be charged with a misdemeanor. It would also prohibit a public school from expelling or suspending a student for more than 10 days for an action the student took arising from a sexual assault.

A disciplinary subcommittee would also be created that could revoke the license of an health professional convicted of sexual contact or penetration under the pretext of medical treatment.

The legislation will go into effect in September, having already received bipartisan support in the Michigan House and Senate.

Additional Nassar-inspired legislation, including a bill requiring parental consent and an additional health professional to be present during certain exams of minors, has already passed the Legislature and will soon be signed by Whitmer, according to the governor's office.

Michigan lawmakers are hoping the movement on Nassar-inspired measures continues after many bills stalled for years in the Legislature. This year, Democrats took control of all levels of state government for the first time in decades.

Earlier this month, legislation to significantly expand the civil statute of limitations for sex abuse victims was introduced in the state House. It would also bar government entities from using the immunity defense if they knew or should have known of an accused's prior sexual misconduct and failed to intervene.

The civil statute of limitations for sex abuse victims in Michigan is currently the age of 28. Increasing — or eliminating — the age limit would allow victims of the late Dr. Robert Anderson at the University of Michigan and others more time to sue.

Tad DeLuca, a whistleblower whose letter to the University of Michigan athletic director sparked an investigation into Anderson, told lawmakers about the importance of eliminating the statute of limitations for sex abuse victims.

"It took me more than four decades — 45-and-a-half years to be exact — to understand that I was sexually abused and raped under the guise of medical treatment," said DeLuca.

Anderson died in 2008. The university agreed to a $490 million settlement with more than 1,000 people who said they were victims.