LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Tuesday’s decision in the civil case against the former president
is having an impact on sexual assault survivors here in Michigan.

Some of them feel seen and heard knowing that justice can be served, even against a former president.

Advocates for sexual assault survivors said one in five women and one in six men have experienced sexual assault or violence.

One group told 6 News Tuesday’s court decision feels like a win for some survivors, but not as much for others.

“I think it provides a level of validation that regardless of an individual having power, authority, wealth, status, can be held accountable for those crimes,” said Hannah Gottschalk, the executive director of The Safe Center, a nonprofit focused on helping victims of domestic and sexual violence.

She said the court decision on E. Jean Carroll’s civil case against former president Donald Trump gave some proof to sexual assault survivors that their stories can be heard by a court but that the court’s decision to not find Trump liable for rape can further existing stigma.

“I think that’s potential fear with a case like this is that hey someone might say ‘I was sexually assaulted but I was not raped, but that’s truly what happened to me,”” she said.

Gottschalk said there are real barriers to speaking out that can keep survivors from sharing their experience for years from the fear of backlash, retaliation, and shame and guilt.

Chéree Thomas with the deputy director of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence said how the incident is talked about in a community can be a deterrent.

“And so when a person is hearing these things, and they are watching and see a person not getting justice, there’s not really an incentive to come forward, to tell, unless they are believed,” Thomas said.

Thomas said believing is critical to support someone who survived sexual assault or rape.

“Their role is to connect them to other resources, that’s it. And it’s the resources’ job to believe and support through the process.” she said.

Thomas goes on to counter a common myth and said the number of cases where people lie about being sexually assaulted is statistically as low as lying about any other crime, like lying about being robbed.

To learn more about resources for sexual assault survivors, click here to learn more from the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence and The Safe Center.