Following Michigan State University’s decision to settle for $500 million with the sexual assault victims of former physician Larry Nassar, the state House of Representatives scaled back some legislation addressed by the lawsuit and its outcome.
ABC News reports that the House’s proposed package – would could be taken to the floor later in the week – would give men and women abused as children until their 28th birthday to sue. Under Michigan’s current law, victims can’t take their abusers to court past the age of 19.
Lawsuits, writes ABC, could still be brought forward under the House bill after an individual turns 28 – the stipulation is that they file a complaint within three years of learning they’d been abused. A state senate proposal touted another twenty years to sue.
Critics of the existing legislation say that its inadequate, noting that survivors of sexual assault often delay reporting out of fear or because they never recognized an incident as being illegal.
Nassar – who molested hundreds of young girls and teenagers since at least the early 1990s – disguised his own incidences of assault as ‘unconventional’ medical techniques. One of the first young women to accuse the osteopath of molestation saw her complaint escalated to an investigative committee – where it was dismissed after Nassar provided an explanation that wasn’t unconvincing.
The House Law and Justice Committee also “backed away from adding college employees, youth sports coaches, trainers and volunteers to the state’s list of people who must report suspected abuse or neglect to child protective services.”
Another changed adopted by the panel would limit the window for childhood victims of abuse to retroactively sue — from 1 year to 90 days — if the bill becomes law. The retroactivity has some limitations, none of which would stop Nassar’s victims from continuing to file new lawsuits.
Detroit Rep. Stephanie Chang (D), the ranking Democrat on the committee, said people abused as minors could sue within three years of learning of injuries sustained from sexual assault.
“We’re coming in line with numerus other states that already have a similar provision,” she said. “We know that for survivors it can take years to grapple with the pain and trauma.”
Chang, asked by ABC why the law places retroactive limits on the ability of non-Nassar victims to sue, said the bill is “a bipartisan compromise that really does try to balance as best as possible the need for access, accuracy, fairness and justice in our legal system.”
The legislative amendments were generally well-received by representatives for Michigan’s state universities.
Other bills moving through the House in the coming weeks would ‘boost training for mandatory reporters of child abuse, require students in grades 6-12 to receive sexual misconduct and harassment information, mandate that parents given written consent before procedures involving vaginal or anal penetration are performed on a minor, toughen child pornography penalties,” along with additional changes.