88 people are expected to give victim impact statements at Larry Nassar‘s sentencing hearing this week, but they’re not just criticizing him. Some of them also ripped his former employers at Michigan State University. He used to be a sports doctor there. The women said the school should’ve done more to stop his decades-long pattern of abusing women and girls.
“Michigan State University must take accountability in their absence in putting an end to this abuse scandal,” said survivor Nicole Soos in Ingham County court. “MSU recently stated that no one affiliated with their university quote ‘believed that Nassar abused anyone until the news articles in 2016.’ Well, there’s a difference between no believing and something seeming unbelievable. Either way, they had the knowledge of the abuse, and their duty was to report it and take action. If this had been properly addressed, I wouldn’t be here talking to you today. Something has gone severely wrong at MSU. They have ignored us.”
She said Nassar misused his position as a doctor to sexually assault her. Soos explained that the experience soured her feeling about her sport of figure skating, and damaged her relationship with her family. Her heart races when she sees someone who looks and sounds like Nassar, she said.
Another survivor, Olivia Cowan, had her own words for MSU.
“Shame on you for looking the other way,” she said.
The school defended itself in a statement to Law&Crime. Here’s what MSU spokesperson Jason Cody wrote in an email:
Many at MSU, including President Simon and Board of Trustee Chairperson Brian Breslin, have been viewing the brave women who have come forward to tell their stories at Larry Nassar’s sentencing hearing. Words cannot express the sorrow we feel for Nassar’s victims; the thoughts and prayers of the entire MSU community are with these women as we listen to their heartbreaking testimony.
We are committed to supporting those in our community affected by these terrible crimes and have created the Healing Assistance Fund to help survivors access any counseling and mental health services they may need. We want to say again that we are truly sorry for the abuse Nassar’s victims suffered, the pain it caused and the pain it continues to cause.
But as we have said previously, any suggestion that the university covered up Nassar’s horrific conduct is simply false. Nassar preyed on his victims, changing their lives in terrible ways.
The school already faced scrutiny for its alleged lack of action surrounding Nassar’s behavior. The former doctor admitted to misusing his positions at MSU and the U.S. Gymnastics team to abuse women and girls for years. The school caught flak over a December report from the Lansing State Journal that said that it let him see patients while he faced a criminal investigation for his behavior. This allegedly led to more abuse.
Amid fallout from Nassar’s actions, the school promised to work with organizations facilitating counseling for Nassar’s victims.
MSU is currently fighting lawsuits by 140 women and girls who said Nassar abused them. Plaintiffs said the school should’ve done more to stop him.
This week’s sentencing hearing stems from the defendant’s guilty plea in November to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Victim impact statements are expected to continue for days. The actual sentencing is scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m.
Nassar also pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in an Eaton County court. The sentencing hearing in that case is scheduled for January 31. In December, a federal judge sentenced him to 60 years in prison over child porn charges.
Note: An MSU spokesperson responded after press time to a Law&Crime request for comment. We added the statement.
[Screengrab of Soos via Law&Crime Network]