More than five years ago, now-Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shared her emotional story on the Michigan Senate floor about being raped, something some of her friends and even her father didn’t know until that day.
This week, Whitmer has spoken at events to honor other survivors of sexual assault, including the 31st Annual Crime Victims’ Vigil Wednesday evening in the Michigan Capitol rotunda.
“I will tell you that the most powerful thing I’ve seen as a legislator, as a former prosecutor, as a survivor myself, and as your governor, is a person or a family who’s turned grief or loss or surviving into a cause to protect others — to help others,” she said.
Whitmer noted that she attended on Tuesday the opening for the Michigan State University art exhibit related to the survivors of the Dr. Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, “Finding Our Voice: Sister Survivors Speak.”
“And I was so moved by the stories that I heard and so determined to make sure that as we chart our state’s future, as we work to make our communities and our homes and our college campuses … safer for people, that the work that the people in this room right now is critical to making sure that we do it in a mindful way that actually solves problems,” she said.
Several Michigan public officials, as well as those who had lost a loved one to violence, spoke at the event.
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement said the court is “responsible for the administration of justice and all of our trial courts. And our job is to work with the trial courts and make sure that there’s access to justice and victims and survivors are part of that process. And they need a voice in that process.”
Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark, who is working on the MSU and Catholic church sexual abuse investigations, gave remarks on behalf of Attorney General Dana Nessel, who stressed her “commitment to victims and her appreciation for all that the people in this room have done.”
State Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) said this was her first time at the event.
“My career has really focused on working with and advocating for those whose voices aren’t heard,” she said, adding that it’s important not to forget that “violence changes lives.”
House Judiciary Committee Chair Graham Filler (R-DeWitt) worked in the Michigan attorney general’s office before being elected last year.
“I hope my work in the House of Representatives honors the victims, the advocates and the law enforcement folks to work on behalf of you,” he said.