They testified before the Michigan House Oversight Committee in support of two bills that aim to hold government workers accountable and giving abuse survivors more time to file for damages.
During much of the testimony, survivors and lawmakers became emotional and frustrated over the descriptions of assault and the trauma survivors live with.
The two House Bills are separate, but work in tandem. House Bill 4306 would change the statute of limitations on civil sexual assault cases to 10 years from the reporting age of 28 and six years after that. It also allows victims to accrue damages for years after their assault.
House Bill 4307 would remove immunity from government entities -- like the University of Michigan or Michigan State University -- from being held liable for knowledge of sexual abuse.
One of the bill’s authors, Detroit Rep. Karen Whitsett, revealed for the first time Thursday that she was assaulted by a doctor as a young girl and she wants to make changes.
“As a survivor, we need to have extended time to be able to report these things,” Whitsett said. “90 days is not long enough. Should it be longer than what we’re offering? I believe absolutely but I believe we have to start somewhere.”
“This bill isn’t trying to tip the scales of justice one way or the other, it’s allowing people to bring forth whatever evidence they have,” said Rep. Ryan Berman.
During the emotional and sometimes graphic testimony, survivors spoke directly to lawmakers.
“I’m filled with disbelief and anger because I love the University of Michigan and I love my teammates. But because of these abuses could have been stopped early on -- although I did not know about it then -- now i feel a deep shame because there were Michigan personnel who knew about this abuse who covered it up,” said Jon Vaughn.
“Survivor’s suffering will be lifelong, but these legislation bills will be at least a glimmer of hope to thousands,” said Trinea Gonczar.
Several hearings will take place before the bills will be voted on. A few lawmakers said they wanted to be more specific in some of the language, but nonetheless, this is a big step for survivors and advocates as Michigan remains the center of focus on this kind of sexual assault.
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