Claim: “It’s Penn State all over again. You have the same kind of institutional failures, involving multiple victims violated by a trusted staffer.”
Here is a story that has gone underreported in the media, but deserves so much more attention. Last September, the Indianapolis Star reported that females have accused now former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University physician Larry Nassar of sexual abuse.
By November the number reached 50 women.
Some of these women have spoken out about the alleged abuse, including Jessica Howard, the U.S. National champion from 1999 to 2001 in rhythmic gymnastics. Nassar veiled the alleged sexual abuse as medical treatment for her.
From 60 minutes:
She recalls one session with Dr. Nassar. “He started massaging me. And– he had asked me not to wear any underwear. And then he just continued to go into more and more intimate places,” she tells LaPook. “I remember thinking something was off but I didn’t feel like I was able to say anything because he was, you know, this very high profile doctor,” says Howard. The girls questioned Nassar’s behavior among themselves. “The girls would say ‘yeah he touches you funny,’” she recalls.
Jeanetter Antolin, a member of the team from 1995 to 2000, claims she had the same experience:
“I remember being uncomfortable because of the area. But– in my mind, I was like, ‘If this helps, I’ll do anything.’” She did not complain. “It was treatment. You don’t complain about treatment,” she tells [Dr. Jonathan] LaPook.
Michigan authorities arrested Nassar in November and charged him “with three counts of criminal sexual conduct for ‘predatory, menacing criminal acts involving a minor, a young girl under the age of 13.'”
From NBC News:
Two women have filed lawsuits against Nassar and USA Gymnastics. One is a former Olympic medalist who says she was molested for several years in the mid-1990s, starting when she was 13. The other was a member of the USA national team, who says famed coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi turned a blind eye to abuse at their training center in Texas.
USA Gymnastics, which has hired an attorney to review the organization’s sexual abuse policies, has pointed out that it reported Nassar to the FBI in 2015. It’s not clear what was done after that, but federal investigators are involved in the current probe.
Nassar worked with the gymnastics team from 1996 to 2015, but the organization fired him that year due to “athlete concerns.”
Michigan State University fired him in September when the accusations first surfaced in the Indianapolis Star. He held his medical practice at the college:
“Over the past week, the university received additional information that raised serious concerns about Nassar’s compliance with certain employment requirements,” university spokesman Jason Cody said. He would not elaborate but said the requirements were tied to a 2014 investigation into alleged “abuse during a medical procedure.”
At first, Nassar’s former attorney said he “never used a procedure involving vaginal penetration.” His current attorneys admitted that he “has used a legitimate medical procedure that includes manipulation that, under Michigan law, would be considered vaginal penetration.”
Five of the girls contacted the Indianapolis Star in September. The girls have claimed that “Nassar penetrated them with his finger during what were supposed to be medical treatments.” Three of those girls “said they were underage at the time” while two claimed “he also touched their breasts.” One of the girls saw that the actions “sexually aroused” Nassar.
Dr. Mark Cantieri, president of the Indiana Osteopathic Association, explained to the Indianapolis Star that “there are legitimate intravaginal procedures, but they are rarely used.”
This caused my ears to perk up. I have attempted to reach out to osteopathic doctors to ask about when they would use these procedures.
Why didn’t anyone listen to these girls?
The lack of action is one of the worse parts of this story. These girls did not remain silent. They told anyone they could what Nassar was doing to them:
Over the years, some of Nassar’s alleged victims say they were telling parents, coaches, counselors, MSU athletic trainers – even police — that, without consent or explanation, Nassar was digitally penetrating them in the vagina and anus during medical treatments for back, hip and other injuries.
Yet again and again, the women’s accounts were viewed with skepticism, the women claim.
The situation mirrors another awful situation at another Big 10 school:
“It’s Penn State all over again,” alleges Brian McKeen, a Detroit attorney representing one of the women. “You have the same kind of institutional failures, involving multiple victims violated by a trusted staffer.”
In December, former MSU softball player Tiffany Lopez filed a lawsuit against the school and Nassar, accusing him of abusing her more than 10 times between 1998 and 2001 when she sought treatment for chronic back pain:
Three trainers dismissed her concerns, and one of them told Lopez that she should feel grateful to be treated by a world-renowned doctor, Lopez said.
At the end of January, another woman said that she told MSU about the alleged abuse she endured from Nassar. Instead of a proper response, the university allegedly told her to shut her mouth:
A woman says Michigan State’s women’s gymnastics coach downplayed her concerns about treatments by a sports doctor in the late 1990s and warned that a formal complaint about sexual abuse could have major consequences.
The woman says Kathie Klages was her coach when she was a teen in a Michigan State youth program. She says Klages told her to see Nassar about back pain.
The woman says Nassar repeatedly molested her. She says Klages told her she couldn’t imagine anything questionable.
Rachael Denhollander, a Kalamazoo gymnast, sought treatment from Nassar at MSU when she was only 15 in 2000. He allegedly abused her during the treatment and she told a coach about it two years later. That coach supposedly told her to keep quiet:
Denhollander said she hesitated to contact police for more than 15 years because “I was 100 percent confident that I would not be believed.”
Nassar “was (MSU’s) golden boy. He was USAG’s golden boy,” she said. “He was so loved in the community that I was very sure … I would be crucified and he would end up empowered to know he couldn’t get caught.
“What breaks my heart more than anything,” she said, “is that all these women who came forward and did what I didn’t do, that’s exactly what happened to them.”
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