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Dunnings prostitution case shocking, but may show system is working

Mar 16, 2016

Attorney General Bill Schuette (left) and Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth announce the charges against Stuart Dunnings lll.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A Lansing advocate for domestic violence victims says there's one piece of good news in the arrest this week of longtime Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III for hiring prostitutes: He got caught.

Dunnings stands accused of paying for sex hundreds of times with many women between 2010 and 2015.

Among the list of charges that emerged from a human trafficking investigation, is a pandering charge involving a woman who came to Dunnings for help in a custody dispute with the father of her child. The woman said she'd been the victim of domestic violence.

The complaint against Dunnings alleges that he told this woman that he could help with her financial problems by paying her for sex.

According to the charges, the woman told investigators that she then began an on-and-off commercial sex relationship with the Ingham County prosecutor.

Situations where people are victimized happen all the time, but when we see the accountability and the charges being drawn, it gives us hope that a possibility of a broken system is actually working at the same time and that was encouraging.

Erin Roberts, the executive director of EVE (End Violent Encounters), joined Stateside to talk about the case itself and the larger issues that it brings to light. EVE is a Lansing-based non-profit that provides shelter and supportive services to victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Roberts talked about her reaction when the news broke about these charges against Dunnings.

“It’s a combination of shock and distress and also the understanding that we know that these kinds of situations and these kinds of power differentials and the domestic and sexual violence that arise out of those kinds of situations happen every single day in every single community,” said Roberts.

While the charges brought against the prosecutor paint a very grim picture, Roberts was able to see a small silver lining in that it highlights the widespread problem that she encounters every day through the EVE program and that law enforcement officials did their job well. That silver lining came in the form of Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth, who impressed Roberts by taking this case directly to the attorney general, who filed the charges.  

“Situations where people are victimized happen all the time, but when we see the accountability and the charges being drawn, it gives us hope that a possibility of a broken system is actually working at the same time and that was encouraging,” said Roberts.

Listen to the full interview below to hear more about the case, and how victims can find help anywhere in the state of Michigan.