Eastern Michigan University professors receive Disability Advocacy Hall of Fame Award from The Arc of Oakland County Michigan

EMU professors Marsack-Topolewski and Kelly with Lisa Kowalski, President of the Board of Directors for The Arc of Oakland County, and State Representative Sharon MacDonell of the Michigan 56
EMU professors Marsack-Topolewski and Kelly with Lisa Kowalski, President of the Board of Directors for The Arc of Oakland County, and State Representative Sharon MacDonell of the Michigan 56th House District.

YPSILANTI — The Arc of Oakland County Michigan awarded two Eastern Michigan University professors the Advocacy Hall of Fame Award. Associate professors Annemarie Kelly and Christina Marsack-Topolewski from EMU’s College of Health and Human Services were recognized for five years of community service work supporting a new state law to protect Vulnerable Adults with disabilities against online predation. Kelly and Marsack-Topolewski were among the honorees celebrated as part of the Arc’s 53rd Annual Dove Awards Program.

The award recognizes Kelly and Marsack-Topolewski’s compassion, determination, and resilience in support of Michigan’s Justice for Allie Law (House Bills 4320 and 4387). Enacted in December 2023, the law makes it a crime for online predators to intentionally or knowingly target Vulnerable Adults in Michigan by coercing them for sexually explicit photos. The legislation closed a longstanding gap in Michigan’s exploitation statutes, which did not previously include criminal protections against this type of online abuse. “We are proud to be part of the policy team for Allie Hayes and her family,” Kelly said.

Kelly and Marsack-Topolewski's commitment to passing the Justice for Allie Law was underscored by the story of Allie Hayes, as covered by ABC News WXYZ-TV Channel 7. Allie’s case was the driving example of how Vulnerable Adults could be specifically targeted and exploited online. In a matter of minutes, a predator ascertained that Allie is an individual with down syndrome and coerced her into sending sexually explicit photos over the Internet.  The predator intentionally exploited Allie’s vulnerability as a Vulnerable Adult but, because of the loopholes existing in Michigan abuse laws at the time, prosecutors were unable to designate Allie’s exploitation as a crime.  

Allie’s case signified the urgent need for legal measures to address the online exploitation of Vulnerable Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and other serious cognitive impairments.

Kelly and Marsack-Topolewski's dedication to this cause is evident in their extensive research on disability abuse, exploitation, and coercion within the realm of health law and policy. Over the span of six instances between 2019 and 2023, they were called upon by members of the Michigan Legislature to provide expert testimony on the proposed bills in various State committees. 

Michigan Representative Sharon MacDonell of the 56th House District sponsored the Justice for Allie Law. Kelly and Marsack-Topolewski coordinated with the Hayes family, Representative MacDonell, and the 56th House District legislative team to help move the policy discussions forward.

About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 13,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

April 24, 2024

Written by:
Media Relations

Media Contact:
Brittany Mobley