Former gymnast Larissa Boyce talks about sexual assault allegations against Dr. Larry Nassar, urging survivors to unite. Tony Guerrero shows emotion as he speaks about his teenage daughter. Max Ortiz, The Detroit News
Okemos — A woman and the father of a teenager who accuse Dr. Larry Nassar of sexually assaulting them have gone public, saying Michigan State University staff didn’t do enough to protect them and other alleged victims.
Larissa Boyce and Tony Guerrero’s daughter are among more than 70 plaintiffs suing MSU and Nassar, 53, in state or federal courts. Criminal charges also are pending against the doctor.
Boyce and Guerrero spoke during an interview Friday at the office of their attorneys, Mick Grewal and David Mittleman. It was embargoed until Monday afternoon.
Boyce, 36, alleges Nassar sexually assaulted her while treating her for back problems while she was in an MSU youth gymnastics program from 1997 to 2000. She also claims she told the program’s director, Kathie Klages, and that Klages — who also was MSU’s women’s gymnastics coach — did not inform university officials of the alleged abuse.
Instead, Klages discussed the issue with other gymnasts in front of Boyce, and all except one other gymnast said Nassar had never done anything of the sort to them, Boyce said.
Klages later explained the situation to Nassar, who then spoke to Boyce about what he characterized as a “misunderstanding,” according to Boyce.
She said she never mentioned it to her parents because she felt ashamed and thought after the interaction with Klages that perhaps she was mistaken that Nassar had assaulted her.
“She silenced me that night,” Boyce said. “I didn’t want to talk to anybody else after that because I was humiliated.”
Klages retired in February amid allegations that she had discouraged other gymnasts from going forward with sexual assault allegations against Nassar.
Klages’ lawyer, Shirlee Bobryk, did not immediately return a phone call from The Detroit News late Monday afternoon.
Klages was suspended with pay in 2017 prior to her retirement over her “passionate defense” of Nassar to the gymnastics team when informing them in 2016 about what office to report sexual assault to, according to a letter obtained by The News that MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis sent Klages in February.
Hollis wrote that her display of a “highly emotional sense of shock” to the team left several student athletes confused about who they should speak to.
“While I acknowledge you provided student-athletes with information about reporting to the Office of Institutional Equity, your passionate defense of Dr. Nassar created an emotionally charged environment for the team,” Hollis wrote. “That has not abated and my concerns led me to suspend you without pay.”
One of Nassar’s lawyers, Shannon Smith, also declined to comment and cited “a mutual gag order in the criminal cases.”
Guerrero, whose daughter was 13 at the time that Nassar allegedly started abusing her in 2014, described the doctor as a “master manipulator” who assaulted the girl while Guerrero was in the room during treatments.
“It happened in my face,” he said. “How would you feel?”
He said he believes university staff knew of the abuse allegations against Nassar and should have alerted families.
“I feel horrible. I just wish ... I wish they told me. My daughter, she’s still 15, so she’s one of the last people this happened to,” Guerrero said. “They should have told me. Then she wouldn’t have had to go through this.”
MSU spokesman Jason Cody said in an email that MSU can’t comment on the allegations because of the pending investigations and lawsuit.
Besides the lawsuits against Nassar and MSU, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is pursuing 22 sexual assault charges against Nassar.
According to documents from Schuette’s office, the former physician for MSU and USA Gymnastics committed digital vaginal and anal penetration while treating patients at his home treatment room, the MSU Sports Medicine Clinic and Twistars Gymnastics Club in the Lansing area.
The university said for the first time earlier this month that Nassar had allegedly sexually assaulted a patient he was treating in an investigative report by the university’s Office of Institutional Equity. The report was issued in response to a complaint filed in September by Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to speak out against Nassar, who has denied any wrongdoing.
MSU has six official investigations into Nassar, one of which was completed and resulted in the most recent sexual assault allegation from the university.
Boyce alleges that when she was 16, Nassar penetrated her with his fingers without gloves, asked her if she performed a certain sex act on her boyfriend and even removed his belt, dimmed the lights and grunted in apparent sexual gratification during one examination.
“He used his fingers to go into intimate areas saying it was going to relieve my back pain,” Boyce said. “But I trusted him. I mean, he was a doctor and treated the Olympic gymnasts, and so I thought, ‘OK, if this is going to make my back feel better so I can continue doing gymnastics, then OK.’ ”
Guerrero said Nassar saw his daughter perhaps more than 20 times, always at MSU facilities, for back, ankle and knee pain. Guerrero alleged that “every time,” Nassar sexually assaulted the girl while her father was in the room, positioning her in a way that made it impossible for Guerrero to see what was happening.
“He would say he’s aligning her side and he’d move her underwear to the side,” Guerrero said. “He’d touch her genital area. Every time.”
He said the incidents continue to affect his daughter.
“Sometimes she just breaks down and cries and that’s hard to see,” Guerrero said.
Boyce said Nassar treated her perhaps every week or two for two years, beginning in September 1997.
Boyce said she ended up defending Nassar against other alleged victims when they spoke out against him because she was confused. Now she is speaking out in the hope that it will embolden and encourage victims of sexual assault into coming forward with their allegations.
“So many people are afraid to come forward because of the stigma that is around sexual abuse,” she said. “People don’t want to talk about it. And so, how is it ever going to change if people don’t come forward?
“I want change to happen. I want people to feel comfortable,” Boyce said. “I don’t want people to feel ashamed or afraid or feel like they’re going to be looked at differently. I want people to know that they’re going to be supported; that they have nothing to fear by coming forward.”