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New MI Law Increases Protection for Victims of Sexual Assault

March 29, 2010

LANSING, Mich. - Victims of sexual assault in Michigan have increased protection under a new law signed last week by Governor Jennifer Granholm. The change in statute means judges may now grant Personal Protection Orders or PPOs for victims after one incident. In the past, victims had to wait until at least two unconsented contacts with the perpetrator had been recorded before asking for protection from assault, stalking or harassment.

Jennifer Drum, a sexual assault couselor, brought the issue to the Legislature after a judge was forced to deny a PPO for one of her clients at a Monroe County sexual assault center. Drum says the woman had been sexually assaulted by a co-worker and feared for her safety, but was afraid to file criminal charges.

"That was the only relationship they had, so it wasn't enough to constitute a domestic PPO. He wasn't able to grant it because there was only one incident. So that is where it really all started."

Drum says she was stunned to find what she says had been a huge flaw in the law. She says sexual assault is a devastating crime, and feeling protected by law is part of the recovery.

"I thought it was ridiculous that women or men would have to be assaulted twice before they could get a PPO. That's a violent-enough crime that one incident should be enough. Just doing a PPO can be so healing. It's a great recovery tool because the victims have put it out there, they've written it down on paper, and the judge has stamped it. That in and of itself is very validating for them."

Drum says she contacted state representative Kate Ebli of Monroe and asked for the change in law. NOW-Michigan and domestic violence prevention organizations across the state lobbied for the change, and after almost four years in the process, it passed both chambers unanimously.

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI