Sexual assault, harassment reporting on the rise

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – When it comes to sexual assault and harassment there’s a culture of silence that has kept many victims in the dark for years, but a new trend seems to be changing that.

According to Erin Roberts, executive director of Lansing’s End Violent Encounters (EVE), there are a variety of things working against the victims.

“They’re concerned about their children, they’re concerned about their own safety, their jobs, their reputation,” Roberts said. “Will anyone believe them?”

EVE provides supportive services to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence, and Roberts said it has been encouraging to see so many people coming out now with their stories of alleged sexual assault and harassment because it encourages others to do the same.

“As we continue to have more and more victims come forward, it creates space for even more victims,” Roberts said. “You can see that in the Larry Nassar case.”

In the case of MSU gymnastics docor Larry Nassar, what started as one woman accusing Nassar of sexual assault has become more than 100 women.

Many of those women, among them Jessica Howard, have even revealed their names and told about their own disturbing experiences.

“When news about Dr. Nassar started coming out I realized I wasnt the only one,” Howard said.

At MSU, this trend seems to have continued.

According to the university’s Title IX office, the number of sexual assault and harassment reports have gone up in recent years.

MSU Spokesperson Jason Cody said in a statement, in part, “We firmly believe this is a result of creating a campus culture where women and men feel confident coming forward, not necessarily a result of more cases.”

But regardless of what started the trend, advocacy groups say there’s still more that needs to be done for victims’ voices to actually make a difference.

“What we need to do is continue to believe the victims, do education and prevention work around how to create environments where we’re not perpetrating individuals, and there needs to be accountability when somebody is a perpetrator,” Roberts said.

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