Nassar victim Amanda Thomashow to attend State of the Union address

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
FILE -- Amanda Thomashow of East Lansing listens to fellow sister-survivors' statements during a Michigan State University Board of Trustees meeting on April 13, 2018, in East Lansing, Michigan.

Washington — Amanda Thomashow, who filed the first Title IX complaint against sexual predator Larry Nassar, will attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Thomashow, a former Michigan State University student, will be the guest of freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, whose district includes East Lansing and Michigan State University, where Nassar was a sports doctor.

"I hope that my presence at the State of the Union address sends a message to survivors of sexual assault across our country that they have no reason to be ashamed," Thomashow said in an interview. 

"They are not alone. They are strong and powerful, and we are going to change this world. I bring a message of hope." 

Thomashow was expected to travel to Washington for Trump's speech after testifying in Michigan at a preliminary hearing for former MSU President Lou Anna Simon on Tuesday. 

Simon is charged with lying to police about what she knew about the nature of allegations against Nassar when he was under investigation in 2014 in relation to Thomashow's Title IX complaint. 

Slotkin's invitation to Thomashow follows a letter she sent last week to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, suggesting her proposed revisions to campus sexual misconduct policies likely would have shielded MSU from responsibility to protect the victims of Nassar’s abuse.

"I could not be more proud to be joined at the State of the Union by a woman who has exhibited such leadership and effected real change on an issue directly impacting the 8th District community," Slotkin said in a statement.

"I’m looking forward to having her here to discuss both the ways Congress can serve as a check and balance on the administration’s proposed Title IX roll-backs, as well as the proactive action we can take to keep students safe on campus.”

DeVos spokeswoman Liz Hill noted that the department is reviewing comments on the proposed Title IX changes. 

"The tragic situation at MSU involving Larry Nassar is further proof that the current Title IX framework has failed far too many students and shows that the prior administration’s policies have not worked," Hill said by email. 

"The department published a new proposed Title IX rule and is considering all stakeholder comments on that rule to ensure the Title IX reporting and adjudication process will better protect all students going forward."

Nassar, who also was a sports doctor for USA Gymnastics, is serving what amounts to life in prison after admitting to to sexually abusing girls and women under the guise of medical treatment for decades. 

Thomashow's report accusing Nassar of abuse in 2014 triggered a federally required Title IX investigation into whether he violated MSU's sexual misconduct policy.

She said she is concerned that under the proposed Title IX revisions, MSU wouldn't have had to investigate her complaint. 

That's because the changes would require that educational institutions only investigate incidents that occur within campus-sanctioned events or activities, she said.

While Nassar was an MSU doctor and Thomashow was a student, the office they were in was across the street from campus. Thomashow added that she was not seeing Nassar in a student setting. 

"I couldn’t have filed my Title IX," said Thomashow, now 29. "Under the new guidelines, MSU wouldn’t have had any responsibility in investigating the sexual assault, which would have made the rest of the case against him much more difficult." 

Thomashow's Title IX complaint was investigated in 2014 after she had an appointment with Nassar for treatment of hip pain, and he touched her inappropriately. She also reported Nassar’s behavior to the MSU police department in May 2014.

Her complaint was among at least eight young women who alerted at least 14 MSU representatives to Nassar's misconduct in the two decades before his arrest in 2016, according to a Detroit News investigation

The investigation ultimately cleared Nassar of wrongdoing, but Thomashow said it resulted in new guidelines placed on Nassar going forward, such as using gloves, asking for consent and having someone else present in the room for exams. 

"In 2016, when he was fired from MSU, it was because he’d broken the rules they put in place as a result of my Title IX," said Thomashow, who has asked MSU to reopen her Title IX investigation.

"Otherwise, they wouldn’t have had proof in writing that he knew he was breaking the rules. We also had a paper trail to show this had happened multiple times."

Thomashow said federal officials shouldn't expect better results from their proposal "when institutions are just going to want to protect themselves." 

"If Larry hadn’t been investigated he could be still practicing. He could still be out abusing people. And all of my sister survivors wouldn't have gotten the justice they deserved," she said. 

"The lesson that we learned from my Title IX and from what happened at MSU is not to lower the bar and make it easier for universities to sweep allegations of sexual abuse under the rug. The proper response would be to raise the bar and make it more difficult for a predator to exist on campus for decades."