Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Two plaintiffs come forward, release identities in Nassar lawsuit

March 27, 2017
Lansing resident Larissa Boyce talks during a conversation about former MSU employee Larry Nassar on March 24, 2017 at Church Wyble P.C. at 2290 Science Parkway in Okemos. Boyce, a former MSU gymnast sexually abused by Nassar, has decided to dismiss anonymity in order to encourage change and challenge stigma. "When your house is robbed, you come forward. Well, our bodies were robbed," Boyce said.
Lansing resident Larissa Boyce talks during a conversation about former MSU employee Larry Nassar on March 24, 2017 at Church Wyble P.C. at 2290 Science Parkway in Okemos. Boyce, a former MSU gymnast sexually abused by Nassar, has decided to dismiss anonymity in order to encourage change and challenge stigma. "When your house is robbed, you come forward. Well, our bodies were robbed," Boyce said. —
Photo by Chloe Grigsby | and Chloe Grigsby The State News

She got a phone call from her mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law had seen an article on ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar, the man who had treated her when she was a gymnast in MSU’s Youth Gymnastics program in the late 1990s. Her mother-in-law informed her of how Nassar was accused of sexually abusing USA Gymnastics gymnasts.

At first, she defended Nassar, a man who now faces lawsuits at the state and federal levels for allegations of criminal sexual conduct. She cited her memories of being told the alleged sexual abuse she faced was nothing more than a “medical treatment.”

But upon recalling more experiences from her practices and treatment sessions, she began to realize Nassar’s treatments were not “medical” at all. He had sexually abused her at the age of 16.

Her name is Larissa Boyce. She is a mother, a daughter, a former athlete and she is coming forward as another alleged victim of Nassar. Once known in the Denhollander et al v. Michigan State University et al lawsuit as “Jane BMSU Doe,” she is now coming forward in the hopes her voice can be used to initiate changes in institutions, support other victims of sexual abuse and help prevent sexual assault in the future.

In 1997, Boyce was in the MSU Youth Gymnastics program. Her involvement eventually led her to be treated by Nassar.

Boyce said she suffered from back pain, which Nassar began to treat her for. She quickly realized his "treatments" made her feel uncomfortable.

The "treatments" consisted of Nassar allegedly placing his fingers into Boyce's pubic area in order to "relieve back pain." Boyce said there were instances where Nassar would "grunt" like he was aroused and remove his belt during the procedure.

"What doctor takes their belt off during an exam?" Boyce said.

Other instances of inappropriate behavior included Nassar saying Boyce must perform oral sex on her boyfriend all the time, she said. Boyce said she was mortified by the question.

After a few appointments with Nassar, Boyce decided to bring her concerns to former MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages, who at the time served as her coach for the youth team often.

“She did her own investigation," Boyce said. "She was trying to get to the bottom of it, but that’s not the right way to respond when someone comes to you with allegations of sexual abuse.”

Looking back, Boyce discussed how after she told Klages about how Nassar made her uncomfortable Klages had the other gymnasts walk into her office to asked them about their thoughts. One by one they walked into Klages' office and down the line she asked them if Nassar made them uncomfortable, she said. Only Boyce and another girl, who eventually withdrew her statements, stood in front of Klages.

"When I went to her, she should have done something right away, even if it was her friend," Boyce said. "I think immediately she should have filed something even if she didn’t believe me.”

Boyce noted that Nassar and Klages, to her knowledge, had been friends for years dating back to working at Great Lakes Gymnastics in the early 1990s.

She said she believes Klages held her friendship with Nassar above her and Klages’ reaction to her statements were complete awe. Eventually, Klages said if Boyce wanted to file something she would, but Boyce said Klages made her feel pressured to not file.

"She made me feel like I had a dirty mind," Boyce said.

Boyce did not tell her parents at the time and decided not to go forward with the investigation.

“Nobody wants to come forward with something like that," Boyce said. "It’s hard. It’s scary.”

Boyce went back to being treated by Nassar and on her first appointment back, Nassar was already aware of her conversation with Klages.

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Boyce said she apologized to Nassar and during her "treatment" that day, Boyce said Nassar allegedly acted "angry" with her.

The last time she talked to Klages was in 1998, when she quit gymnastics altogether.

“I felt ashamed every time I went there," Boyce said. "I felt embarrassed every time I went back there. I lost the desire to do it because I felt like everybody looked at me differently.”

After she stopped going to MSU’s Youth Gymnastics program, she held no resentment toward MSU. Originally from the area, she said attending MSU as a student felt like a natural choice.

“I grew up around here. I remember when we were little we always used to go ride our bikes on campus with my family and go feed the ducks, so it felt like home to me,” she said.

But, Boyce said she does think MSU enabled Nassar to continue seeing patients by ignoring the problem. She said people who were supposed to be mandatory reporters — like Klages and even Nassar himself — did not do their jobs to prevent sexual abuse from happening.

“The administration is saying, ‘Well, we didn’t know anything, our people didn’t say anything, or nobody came to us.’ Well, yes, we did,” Boyce said. “I came to them in ‘97 and then Tiffany Lopez came to them and whoever else came to them. They knew about it.”

Boyce said because their employees failed to act, MSU failed to protect victims. While she’s still an MSU fan, she admitted it has gotten harder to root for them through this process.

“I feel like they haven’t shown integrity through this. I feel like they’re more worried about their image than the survivors of this,” she said. “They’re more worried about making sure that they look like they are innocent of knowing anything instead of saying, ‘We’re sorry this happened on our watch.’”

Fastforward to 2014, Grand Ledge resident Tony Guerrero, father of Jane AMSU Doe, is sitting in the medical exam room with Nassar "treating" his daughter right in front of him.

Jane AMSU Doe, a minor in the lawsuit, fractured her back while performing in gymnastics. Her pain, much like Boyce, led her to Nassar. Guerrero said his daughter began seeing Nassar when she was 11 or 12 years old.

"He seemed like I could trust him," Guerrero said. Guerrero described Nassar upon first meeting him as "friendly."

Guerrero sat in the room while his daughter was treated and started to notice signs of what he thought to be inappropriate procedures. Guerrero said Nassar touched his daughter’s genital area every time. He said Nassar explained it as aligning her spine.

"One time we were there for her knee and he adjusted her spine," Guerrero said. "Now, I know why."

Parallels can be drawn from both Boyce and Guerrero. Both said Nassar never wore gloves during his "treatments." Also, they alluded to the views of Nassar as a "god" and how it was a privilege to work with a doctor with ties to USA Gymnastics.

Guerrero said he is riddled with guilt.

"I blamed myself because I was right there with my little girl while he did it," Guerrero said.

Guerrero said he believes MSU did not contact or give him any warning about Nassar and for that they must be held accountable.

"MSU should be held accountable," Guerrero said. "Everyone at MSU should be gone. They covered for him."

Going forward, Boyce said she wants accountability and integrity from MSU. She said she believes the university is more worried about their image than the survivors.

“MSU is my alma mater. I want them to do the right thing,” Boyce said. “I want them to have integrity here.”

Stay with The State News for more Nassar coverage.

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