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Bills adding safeguards to prevent sexual abuse during medical exams move out of Senate

Myesha Johnson

Bills to explicitly outlaw sexual contact under the guise of medical treatment made it out of the Michigan Senate Thursday with unanimous support.

The bills are part of a years-in-the-making response to sexual abuse at the hands of the former Michigan State University athletics doctor Larry Nassar. Much of it happened under the pretext of medical exams.

State Senator Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) said the circumstances deserve their own legislation.

“Just recognizing the additional harm that’s caused by someone who’s in this position of authority who’s a trusted health professional, someone who’s going in to seek medical care and then abusing them under the guise of medical treatment, it’s really extreme in a different way,” Chang told reporters after Thursday’s vote.

Other bills in the package would also set up safeguards and recordkeeping requirements for conducting certain intimate exams, like those Nassar used to abuse patients.

Though the former doctor was first convicted for his crimes in 2017, the legislation has failed to get to the governor’s desk each time similar bills have come up.

Chang said she’s confident the bills will pass this time around.

“We’re less than five months into the session and we’re taking action. April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We took the bills up in committee, quickly moved these out onto the floor, and I know that there’s been movement in the House on the complimentary bills in this package,” Chang said.

Outside of addressing sexual assault in a medical setting, the Senate also voted out a bill dealing with the issue in schools.

It would require the state education department to create new sexual assault and harassment awareness materials for students in grades six and up.

The legislation would also encourage districts to provide more training for any staff who interact with students.

“I think the educational component is so important because it does require the schools to teach kids what it is and how to handle it and what resources are available,” Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly) said.

The bills now head to the state House of Representatives.

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