Keep the dialogue on sexual assault going

Sexual assault cannot always be prevented.

There are bad people in the world — some who masquerade as ‘nice’ doctors, priests, teachers and coaches. Survivors and their families should never feel in any way responsible for the crimes perpetrated against them by predators.

That’s just one topic to be discussed in two forums on Friday that will offer tips for identifying red flags and advice to help protect against sexual assault.

Greater Lansing needs this dialogue. Our community has been living a public nightmare since the arrest, conviction and sentencing of former Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar. Hundreds of women and girls have said Nassar sexually assaulted them over a more than 20-year period.

“Nice Guy Sexual Offenders: Identifying Red Flag Behavior and Warning Signs” will feature a panel of experts at the MSU Union (8:30-10:30 a.m.) and at the Meridian Township Building (2-3:30 p.m.).

More conversations surrounding sexual assault are key to helping protect the community from predators such as Nassar. Such discussions also can provide a pathway for survivors, their families and the community to heal.

Among the panelists:

Larissa Boyce – a former youth gymnast and survivor of sexual assault perpetrated by Nassar. Boyce first reported the abuse in 1997.

Brianne Randall-Gay – a Nassar survivor who in 2004 initiated one of the first police investigations against the former doctor.

Tashmica Torok – executive director of the Firecracker Foundation, a local non-profit that honors the bravery of children survivors of sexual trauma by building a community invested in their healing process. Torok is a survivor of childhood sexual trauma.

Jim Clemente – a member of the FBI/NYPD ‘Sexual Exploitation of Children’ task force who was victimized as a teenager by a coach.

Francey Hakes – a former federal prosecutor and child protection consultant.

The topic of sexual assault is distasteful. However, shying away from the uncomfortable conversations perpetuates the stigma that makes some victims feel they did something wrong.

Nassar’s crimes will haunt Greater Lansing for years. Yet he’s only one predator. There are and will be others.

Our priority must be to protect and support our children. To note warning signs. To listen to their concerns.

Change will happen one encounter at a time. Let’s equip ourselves to be part of that movement.

— Lansing State Journal