Sister Survivors

The Detroit News story, January 2018 “What MSU Knew” details when the abuse started. For twenty years, the female athletes who engaged in the Michigan State Gymnastics program complained of Dr. Larry Nassar to university representatives. MSU President Lou Anna Simon was amongst those who were informed and had known of the 2014 Title IX complaint and police report filed against an unnamed physician.

According to university records and victim’s accounts, amongst those who knew of the abuse were athletic trainers, coaches, a university police detective, the local police and an official who is now MSU’s assistant general counsel. Larissa Boyce is believed to be the first to complain in 1997 to the head Gymnastics Coach Kathie Klages at MSU. Klages then told Larry Nasser, no one else, and advised Larissa there could be serious consequences in filing a report. A fellow female Gymnast had also confirmed she had also been touched while being treated by Nasser.

A runner, Christie Achenbach told her coach Kelli Bert about Nassar’s behavior in 1999 while seeking treatment for a hamstring injury. Christie recalled coach Kelli Bert words; “he is an Olympic doctor and he should know what he is doing.” According to Kelli Bert, she does not remember the conversation and did not know Nasser was an Olympic doctor.

Spartan softball player Tiffany Thomas Lopez went to Nassar to be treated for lower back pain. She later told MSU Trainer Lianna Hadden of Nassar’s treatment regime. Hadden advised Tiffany to talk to MSU trainer Destiny Teachnor-Hauk. Destiny told Tiffany she could file a report if she was uncomfortable; but, there may be consequences.

Two years after Tiffany’s abuse, Jennifer Rood Bedford complained to Destiny Teachnor-Hauk about being uncomfortable with Nasser’s treatment. As told by Jennifer, Hauk said “that filing a report would involve an investigation, making an accusation against Nassar, and requires a statement that I felt what Nassar did was unprofessional or criminally wrong.” Rood could not say with certainty the treatment was wrong or unprofessional.

The stories being told by female athletes stopped with those who should have been advocating for them. Larissa Boyce had hoped this would come from a female coach. Over seventeen years, Destiny Teachnor-Hauk claims she never heard a complaint about Larry Nasser. The system failed, it failed at the coach/teaching level and not with the athletes who sounded the alarm of sexual abuse at the hands of a doctor. The abuse also happened outside of the MSU system.

The first to publicly testify against Nassar about abuse outside of MSU, Kyle Stephens said he began molesting her in 1998 by exposing himself in the basement of his home. She was 6. In 2004, she told her parents who told MSU Clinical Psychologist Dr. Gary Stollak. The parents met with Nassar and Stollak. Nassar denied everything and her parents believed the doctors. A retired Dr. Stollak testified he had a stroke in 2016 and could not remember any details of the meeting.

Upon leaving the second visit for back pain with Nassar in the Spring of 2004, Brianne Randall-Gay went to local police. She told them he had touched her bare breast and put his hand between her legs. A few weeks later, police asked Randall-Gay and her parents to meet with Nassar. Randall-Gay‘s parents went without her. Nassar said and the police confirmed what she experienced was a legitimate treatment.

Doctors and the police did not believe the young women and girl’s complaints.

Lindsey Lemke is a “Sister Survivor,” the name taken by the 256 survivors of Larry Nassar’s physical sexual assault. She and the others spent the last 18 months fighting “not just for justice for Nassar;” but, they also fought for accountability, “the accountability of Michigan State University who enabled Nassar’s continued abuse” by not reacting.

April of this year found Lindsey attending a dinner at Michigan State, an Athletic Gala sponsored by the university hosts and meant to honor student athletes having a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Lindsey was happy to have a night out celebrating her athletic accomplishments. It turned to a night of frustration and anger as the host talked about the disappointment the Michigan Spartans experienced over the last 16 months because of one man. And no, they were not going to let him bring it down for the University and the remaining Sister Survivors at the university.

Lindsey grew angry as she listened to the comparison being made by the speaker about the hard time MSU was having answering questions and explaining for 16 months about Nasser’s physical sexual abuse of Lindsey and the other female athletes. As explained in The Detroit News, the abuse continued over 20 years. It continued even though Lindsey and the other athletes went to their coaches and others . . . nothing was done.

A false equivalency was being made by the speaker as if the spotlight on Michigan State was the equivalent of the sexual abuse, or worse, then what the women athletes experienced, and endured again as they told their stories in public. The speaker spoke as if there could be an equivalency to each experience endured . . . making the University’s reputation more important than the sexual abuse at the hands of a MSU employee. There was no apology being made to Lindsey Lemke or her Sister Survivors.

In the same week as the dinner and in a Jane Doe investigation, Michigan State University allowed a female witness to be identified as a complainant. This can be a violation of federal law in response to a Title IX lawsuit.

A federal lawsuit filed Monday alleges a former female student was raped by three unnamed members of the school’s basketball team in April 2015. Following that alleged assault, the woman said the school’s counseling center discouraged her from reporting, telling her to “just get yourself better.”

The university responded by posting a detailed response online, raising concerns about student privacy.

Again, MSU failed to take into regard the importance of a student’s safety, their privacy, and the care required to protect them while answering various questions and reports. MSU acts according to its own best interest at the expense of its students.

Between 1997 and 2015, young women, girls, and older women alike raised concerns about Nassar’s treatments. It started to come to a head when Amanda Thomashow filed a formal Title IX complaint about Nassar in 2014. The complaint still did not result in the removal of Nassar.

Over 20 years, Nassar abused hundreds of women while at MSU. The University, its athletic department, and it’s president would continue to deflect responsibility for not taking action. In her letter of resignation, Lou Anna K. Simon the President in charge 13 of the 20 years in her letter of resignation stated:

“I have been told it is virtually impossible to stop a determined sexual predator and pedophile, that they will go to incomprehensible lengths to keep what they do in the shadows. As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger.”

The State of Michigan appointed former Governor John Engler as the interim president after former President Lou Anna K. Simon was asked to resign by the Board of Trustees. She is still being paid a $750,000 salary for one year and will return to teaching at $500,000 annually. The same Board of Trustees failed to take action in an earlier 2014 Title IX investigation complaint about Nassar is still in place. The abuse was allowed to continue. MSU maintains it did nothing wrong during that investigation the 2014 filing.

John Engler was the political choice;

I will move forward as though my own daughters were on this campus.”

were the words Engler used to help build trust with the MSU Sister Survivors and the public.

Instead of helping to provide greater protection for MSU women and Nassar’s victims, Engler personally campaigned in the legislature against bills meant to increase the statute of limitations for victims of sex abuse and make more authority figures mandatory reporters of child sex abuse. The 15 public universities in Michigan also opposed the bills. Engler claimed Nassar’s victims were only interested in leveraging MSU and were not interested in mediation.

Engler comment raises the question of how does the one responsible for taking action mediate the results of their failure with the victim? The outcome will always be in the mediator’s best intersts.

Engler argued publicly with Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to come forward publicly with allegations against Nassar. At a Trustee’s meeting early in April, “Engler publicly threatened Kaylee Lorincz when she shared the story about his attempt to buy her silence. Kaylee Lorincz also revealed during that meeting Engler lied to her about his settlement talks with other survivors, and downplayed the sexual harassment charges against Nassar’s boss, Dean William Strampel, calling them merely a ‘slap on the butt.’”

The Board of Trustees remains in place and reiterated their support for John Engler.

It is a pattern and a practice for MSU. As Think Progress points out “sexual assault allegations against football and basketball players have been ignored or mishandled by the athletic department and administration at MSU. Investigations into allegations have been shoddy and well hidden (if they happen at all). Victims have been encouraged not to come forward with allegations against high-profile players or coaches on campus due to potential backlash or retaliation.”

The same pattern and practice was experienced by the Sister Survivors as told by them about Nassar experienced by them with the Board of Trustees and the interim President John Engler. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigation confirmed MSU had not met multiple Title IX requirements, including notifying students of the name of the Title IX coordinator, conducting investigations within appropriate time frames, and following proper grievance procedures.

Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse case at Penn State received around-the-clock attention for weeks. The Sister Survivor’s case has disappeared from the public eye since MSU’s Nassar was sentenced. Attorney John Manly believes he knows why:

I think it’s sexism, misogyny, and you know, it’s not college football, it’s gymnastics. And the audience for gymnastics doesn’t generate hundreds of millions or billions of dollars.

Think Progress updated its initial report on Michigan State University. The law firm representing MSU sent a letter to the NCAA on May 4. The letter acknowledges Nassar, “under the guise of medical treatment, sexually assaulted at least 25 MSU student-athletes between 1997-2016, including six student-athletes since 2014, when MSU botched its Title IX investigation into Nasser’s abuse.”

The letter was sent to clarify and despite the sexual assaults that,

“no violations of NCAA rules occurred with regard to the criminal conduct of Dr. Larry Nassar, a former employee at the University.”

In spite of the many sexual abuse over 20 years, the assaults mostly occurring on the MSU campus, the deaf ear by MSU employees to female athletes, the condemnation by the Michigan state legislature of MSU for its failure to protect female athletes, and the Gymnastics Coach Kathy asking her team (including survivors of Nassar’s abuse) to sign a card of support for him after he was fired due to the allegations of sexual abuse in 2016; Michigan State University is more concerned about violations of NCAA rules and its image rather than Nassar’s female victims. There is no sympathy, morose, embarrassment when confronted with what was allowed to happen over the years. Business as usual.

The NCAA has not responded to the victims or Michigan State University.

References:

Michigan State still doesn’t care about victims of sexual assault Lindsay Gibbs, Think Progress, March 23, 2018

Michigan State is finding new ways to victimize the survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse Lindsay Gibbs, Think Progress, April 18, 2018

Michigan State admits Nassar sexually abused student-athletes, but says he didn’t break NCAA bylaws? Think Progress, Lindsay Gibbs, May 4, 2018

What MSU knew: 14 were warned of Nassar abuse Kim Kozlowski, The Detroit News 2018

Michigan State ‘regrets’ providing an ‘unnecessary amount of detail’ in response to Title IX lawsuit‘ MLive, April 13, 2018

run75441 @ Angry Bear Blog

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