Michigan lawmakers hope to extend statute of limitations for sexual assault survivors

Michigan lawmakers hope to push through the Access to Justice Plan, a set of bills that would give sexual assault survivors more time to seek justice.

"I'm here today not only as a state representative but as a survivor because it is so past time for action to rebalance the scales of justice in favor of survivors," Rep. Noah Arbit said.

Arbit noted how few sexual abuse survivors actually come forward, especially when it comes to boys and men. Right now, Michigan's statute of limitations only allows survivors to bring civil claims by the age of 28.

"There is a very narrow pathway to justice for survivors of sexual assault," attorney Megan Bonanni said.

Bonanni says because of self-blame, shame, PTSD, and repressed memory, most survivors don't report their abuse until much later in life.

"The science tells us that it's at age 52 when a human being is fully able and ready to come to terms with their abuse," she said.

This new package of bills would extend the statute of limitations until age 52. It would also limit governmental immunity in some cases and could hold institutions like universities liable for crimes such as those committed by Dr. Larry Nassar at Michigan State University and Dr. Robert Anderson at the University of Michigan.

"Everybody needs the opportunity to heal - be a safe person - be an ally - be the change -I speak to you today as the leaders and decision-makers of the future, to plead the utmost importance of your decision on this legislation. It's time for a different outcome," said Trinea Gonczar, a Nassar survivor.

The bills would also provide a survivors' bill of rights enabling survivors to access an attorney and counselor during the reporting process and tighter guidelines for the processing of forensic exam evidence kits. Advocates say it's common sense, non-partisan reform seeking justice for survivors of sexual assault.

"This absolutely should not be a partisan issue. There is nothing in progressive thought or conservative thought that condones this type of action," said Rep. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs). "I'm hoping we have 100% support on all of these bills because it's time we address this, and it's not a political issue."