PROOS: Protecting our children from sexual assault

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is a time to bring awareness to the problem of sexual assault and stress the role each of us can play in helping end this unimaginable crime.

An important step is for all of us to speak up and say something if we believe someone we know has been a victim of sexual assault.

Sexual violence affects women and men across every demographic. One out of four women and one out of 10 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. In addition, about 85 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone known by the victim.

When we actively increase education, awareness and community involvement, we can help prevent sexual violence and create a safer environment for everyone. I encourage southwest Michigan residents to help raise awareness about this heinous crime and about what can be done to prevent it.

The Legislature is working to protect college students, who are often considered one of the more vulnerable populations when it comes to sexual assaults. Going to college should be an enjoyable time that helps prepare the next generation of leaders for success. Every student and athlete in our state deserves a safe place to learn and compete, and no victim of sexual abuse should ever feel threatened or ashamed about coming forward.

Among the many reforms in Senate Bills 871-880 is making college employees and youth sports coaches, assistant coaches, athletic trainers, bus drivers and youth sports volunteers mandatory reporters of child abuse, including sexual assault.

Sexual assault can emotionally and physically scar a victim, and the ultimate goal is to prevent all sexual assaults. As we aim for that goal, we must create an environment where survivors feel free to speak up, tell their stories and start the healing process.

Victims of sexual assault are encouraged to call 911 or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.