Survivors speak out: ‘MSU isn’t listening’

Sarah Rahal, The Detroit News

Lansing – After Larry Nassar was sentenced to as much as 175 years in prison on Wednesday, survivors of his sexual abuse turned their anger toward Michigan State University, where the former sports doctor worked for two decades.

Rachael Denhollander, the first to publicly speak on Nassar’s abuse, led 11 victims who addressed reporters, saying: “We have waited 18 months for MSU to respond ... No one believed because no one listened and they’re still not listening.”

“Who else did not act? Who else knew what was happening?” she asked. “This is the worst sexual assault scandal.”

Nassar’s sentencing followed a Detroit News investigation that found that reports of his sexual misconduct reached at least 14 university representatives in the two decades before his arrest.

Among those notified was MSU President Lou Anna Simon, who was informed in 2014 that a Title IX complaint and a police report had been filed against an unnamed physician.

Once a famous and now infamous sports doctor, Nassar sexually assaulted young girls under the guise of an osteopathic medical treatment for two decades.

He digitally penetrated the young women, who were mostly gymnasts, many times while their parents were in the room. He pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges last year.

Nassar is believed to have victimized at least 200 young women when they were girls, since that many have filed civil lawsuits against him, MSU, USAG and others.

On Wednesday, Denhollander and Morgan McCaul, Amanda Thomashow, Kaylee Lorincz, Lindsey Lemke, Kyle Stephens and Larissa Boyce all called on Simon and MSU trustees to resign.

“I’m an MSU alumni. I used to bleed green. Right now, with their actions, I’m just bleeding with disgust. So how do we as a community grow from this? Are we going to hide in the corner… or will Spartans be who we say we are?” said Boyce, who reported abuse to MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages in 1997.

McCaul called out Simon for spending her time “hustling donors” along with the trustees’ vice chairman, Joel Ferguson.

Ferguson apologized Tuesday evening for saying during a radio interview that the trustees had other issues to discuss besides “this Nassar thing.”

“Like many of us, I was absolutely appalled by Joel Ferguson’s radio show comments on Tuesday calling the largest case of sexual assault victims just ‘this Nassar thing.’ So, I called his office once court adjourned, not expecting to get a callback, inviting him to court, and he called me back and he invited me to express my concerns.

“He said they made so many mistakes,” McCaul said. “He told me to leave the past in the past and look to the future.”

McCaul said when she asked Ferguson what they were doing to mend the issue, he would not say. She said, “I proceeded to end the call by telling him he hasn’t heard a word I said.”

Thomashow, an MSU alum who filed a Title IX report and reported her abuse to police in May 2014, said they weren’t listening to her then, and they aren’t listening now.

“It appears they have not heard a word of what we have said,” said Thomashow.

“It should never take over 120 victims to file a single report,” she said. “Being negligent is just as bad as being an accomplice.”

The victims aren’t the first to call Simon to step down over the Nassar scandal. The Michigan House of Representatives on Wednesday adopted a resolution urging Simon to resign.

Lemke, a gymnast who shared her story in 2016, spoke about history with John Geddert, an Olympic coach at Twistars who led her to Nassar.

“We are the karma that these people deserve,” she said. “There’s a lot we have to do, but this is a start.”