Michigan State University (MSU) has been accused of covering up what is considered to be the biggest sex scandal in U.S. history. Larry Nassar, MSU’s former director of sports and U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team doctor, is facing charges up to life in prison. Over 150 accounts of sexual abuse against young women, including Olympic athletes, have surfaced. He pleaded guilty to over 10 counts of sexual assault and possession of child pornography. Nassar also pleaded guilty to conducting thousands of sexually abusive procedures over his 20 years of practice.
The trial against Nassar has uncovered a long history of secrecy at the school. From 1997 to 2015, seven women attending MSU went to various university representatives, from athletic trainers to coaches, with complaints of Nassar sexually assaulting or abusing them. However, MSU continued to allow Nassar to practice under claims that his practices were “medically appropriate.” The school, along with several other institutions that ignored claims against Nassar, is now facing a multitude of civil lawsuits. Last month, MSU’s president Lou Anna Simon resigned over the criticism of the University’s handling of Nassar going back over two decades. MSU’s Board of Trustees voiced their support for Simon last week, only to withdraw it later, stating that it would be best for the institution if she resigned. Bill Beekman, Secretary to the Board of Trustees, will temporarily take her place until a permanent replacement is found.
Former MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages also resigned after being scrutinized for defending Nassar. Athletic director Mark Hollis announced his retirement, as well. Another MSU physician, Brooke Lemmen, left last year after uncovering and throwing out several boxes of confidential treatment records from the school at Nassar’s request.
Members of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team have come forward, including Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney. These gymnasts’ claims against Nassar have engendered education and awareness around sexual assault. Maroney was one of the first victims to speak up about the abuse. USA Gymnastics tried to pay Maroney to keep her allegations against Nassar quiet. She expressed the claims of her abuse in a long statement at Nassar’s sentencing.
“It began when I was 13 years old and it didn’t stop even after the Olympics. It didn’t stop until I left gymnastics completely. I was told to trust him because he would treat my injuries and make it possible for me to achieve my Olympic dreams. But he abused me like so many other women,” Maroney said.
There have also been claims that young women approached Klages and various trainers with abuse accounts, but they were ignored.
Dozens of women have taken the stand in the Nassar trial to share their stories. Nassar has not been fully sentenced yet, but in December he was federally charged with 60 years for possession of child pornography. In January, a Michigan judge sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison to be served after his federal sentence. In February a Michigan judge will sentence Nassar for his guilty plea of three counts of sexual assault at Twistar’s gym in Eaton County, where he also provided medical services.
Photo courtesy of Fine Art America.