In the wake of Larry Nassar's horrific crimes against more than 250 women and girls, three state representatives have introduced a package of bills that aim to better protect victims of criminal sexual conduct.
"We must remove any barriers that hinder the reporting this criminal behavior, to make sure the proper authorities are alerted and action to protect students, athletes and patients is taken," said state Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Wixom, chairman of the House Law and Justice Committee and one of the bill sponsors. "Nassar victimized young girls for two decades and this legislation will prevent another monster from doing the same."
The bills would do three things:
— Make it a crime for a person in a position of authority to prevent someone from reporting a crime.
— Make it mandatory for athletic coaches and trainers to report criminal sexual conduct offenses.
— Add sexual offenses to the OK2Say program for confidential reporting of on-campus crime.
"The victims of Nassar stated over and over they felt bullied or prevented from having a voice," said Rep. Kim LaSata, R-Bainbridge Township.
Too many people involved in the Nassar monstrosities lost track of who and what they were obligated to protect. Instead of standing up for his young victims and the truth, they stood in the way in shameful attempts to protect and preserve the institutions — Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, others — that enabled Nassar's crimes. Their negligence appears now to have damaged those institutions far more than they could have imagined.
We have written about gaps in Michigan's duty-to-report statutes before. It is no surprise that teachers would be obligated to report assaults against children but that coaches in the same building would not have the same mandatory duty. Legal duty, that is; coaches and athletic trainers still have a moral obligation to protect young people, as do we all.
Whatever happens with this legislation, that doesn't change.
When they are finished with these bills, their sponsors should look at other gaps in Michigan law that leave the most vulnerable unprotected against abuse and assault.
One that needs attention is the duty for all adults to report child abuse and neglect. Many states have such requirements, but Michigan has no law to punish the relatives who watched Mackenzie Maison tortured to death. Another gap protects counselors operating as religious leaders against criminal sexual conduct charges.
— TIMES HERALD/PORT HURON (AP)