Thursday, September 16, 2021

Survivors frustrated with MSU's silence, handling of Nassar

December 7, 2017

"MSU, you were told, you were aware and you silenced us and allowed a pedophile to flourish,” survivor Larissa Boyce said in a press conference Thursday. 

Boyce is one of the survivors of sexual assault committed by ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. She said she reported her assault to former MSU Gymnastics Coach Kathie Klages while she was on the team.

“MSU’s employee betrayed my confidence," Boyce said. "She (Klages) enabled and embolden a pedophile that could only continue to prey on hundreds of victims. These girls would not be sitting next to me had she had done the right thing.”

Survivors of Nassar's sexual abuse are fed up with MSU.

Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison on Thursday for two charges of possession of child pornography and one charge of destroying evidence.

In a press conference featuring five survivors following the sentencing, each survivor said MSU should do more to punish those who they feel were complicit in their assaults. 

"We are not comforted," survivor Jessica Smith said. "It is not comforting that one person is in jail while many people who enabled are sitting untouched and feel that they're laughing at us."

Smith said she was disappointed in what she views as the apparent lack of sympathy from the university.

"While we're in court, facing these things and not sleeping and losing family and friends, that they're celebrating basketball and football and money and their status," Smith said. "That is insulting."

Survivor Morgan McCaul said she blames MSU staff for her assault. 

"I never would've been assaulted if mandatory reporters had done what they promised," McCaul said at the press conference.

 Boyce echoed a similar sentiment. 

"The disturbing truth about that is he could have been stopped over 20 years ago, when I brought the concerns about his medical practices to the head gymnastics coach at Michigan State University," Boyce said. 

Smith went on to say MSU might be manipulating the situation. 

"It's hard to sit and think about how many strings were pulled to keep Nassar with his status and to keep us being victimized," Smith said. "I can personally say that I still feel like strings are being pulled and so that our real story is not being heard. I cannot help but wonder are strings still being pulled to protect MSU and not to protect us?"

MSU spokesperson Jason Cody said in a statement MSU has done everything it can to handle the situation and report to law enforcement.

 "Allegations have been made against the university, claiming it is engaged in a cover-up by university administrators," the statement said. "MSU unequivocally denies this accusation. Moreover, MSU and its external counsel have consistently promised if it were to find any employee knew of and acquiesced in Nassar’s misconduct, it would immediately be reported to law enforcement."

The statement also addressed Nassar's sentencing.

"Larry Nassar’s sentencing today on federal child pornography charges represents another important step toward justice for the victims,"  the statement said. "As our president has said, we recognize the pain sexual violence causes and deeply regret any time someone in our community experiences it. We acknowledge it takes real courage for all victims of sexual violence who come forward to share their story. His behavior was deeply disturbing and repugnant, as the state and federal criminal charges that he has been convicted of show."

Boyce claims the university silenced cries for help by the women Nassar abused. 

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"MSU Board of Trustees and Lou Anna Simon, you continue to deny your culpability in this, but I know the truth," Boyce said. "Two of us girls told your MSU staff on the same night that we were uncomfortable with the way Nassar was touching us."

Boyce said the university has not made an effort to reach out to the survivors in spite of its claim of support. 

"Well, I am calling your bluff," Boyce said. "You have not reached out to me or to any of the other survivors sexually abused by Nassar. You have shown me nothing but silence and disdain. I am a thorn in your side."

Smith said in spite of others' best efforts, nothing has been done to change what she sees as a culture of acceptance of sexual abuse within MSU. 

"MSU is setting the precedent that if this is to happen again, someone else can get away with it just as easily as Nassar had for so long," Smith said. "The way we look at it, people had spoken up. Nothing was done. Things are continually trying to move forward with change for MSU so that people are safe there and still nothing is being done, nothing that is of value to the community."

Survivor Alexis Alvarado held MSU to the same level of guilt as Nassar. 

"(MSU is) just as guilty as Larry is, for enabling him," Alvarado said. "They're just as guilty, even if they don't think they are."

Boyce said she was satisfied with Nassar's sentencing, calling it a step towards justice. 

Still, she said she is disappointed with the response from the university. 

"I used to bleed green, but now I'm just bleeding with disappointment," Boyce said. "My hope is you will hear our cries now. We are your watershed moment in America's culture, all of the #MeToos are calling for change. MSU, you could have been the leaders of this change. Instead you're denying your culpability in it. Your lack of response and transparency makes you look like cowards."

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