Friday, April 10, 2020

Nassar survivors address board at meeting: 'We are not able to heal and grow'

December 13, 2019

At Friday's Board of Trustees meeting, six survivors of Larry Nassar's abuse spoke to the board about transparency, asking them to release the 6,000 documents they have regarding the doctor's abuse.

Amanda Thomashow took to the podium to address the four board members who were on the board when she reported her sexual assault in 2014 — Dianne Byrum, Brian Mosallam, Joel Ferguson and Melanie Foster.

The assaults took place in an MSU sports medicine clinic and ultimately produced two Title IX reports.

"I'm just going to say it," Thomashow said. "I have a hard time believing that you didn't know."

She said that a board member had personally told her that other board members were aware of the assault in 2014, and cites that as a reason for not believing them. Another reason she cited was their failure to do something about the case, despite them having the power to.

Thomashow was followed by Erika Davis. When she reported her assault, she lost her scholarship and reached the end of her collegiate athletic career, she said.

"When you had the opportunity to help me, you made it clear that I was worth nothing to you by choosing to cover up his crimes and giving him his (Nassar's) medical degree," Davis said.

About halfway through her allotted three minutes, Davis stopped talking to allow the board to answer questions she posed to them. They sat in silence, and when they mentioned moving onto the next speaker, members of the audience replied with, "We'll wait."

During a press conference after the meeting, Byrum explained that the public comment period of the meeting is not meant to provide time for the Board of Trustees to respond to comments. This was not explained to the members of the public during public comment.

Kristin Nagle followed Davis, and asked the board for reparations.

"MSU has treated wave two survivors unfairly," Nagle said. "MSU is re-traumatizing wave two survivors, drawing this out and opening our wounds."

She said MSU withholding documents is counterproductive to progress being made.

Leigha Nichols then spoke about her experience and how she's spoken to the board before. She called for them to release the 6,000 documents that MSU is withholding. She spoke of collusion and coverup, and called for greater transparency.

Alexandra Bourque followed Nichols. She also called for the documents to be released.

"What you've missed is that you're already imprisoned," Bourque said about the trustees. "And you've imprisoned us along with you because until you let go of this, we're not able to. We are not able to move past it, we are not able to heal and grow and move forward as a leading community."

The last survivor who spoke was Sterling Riethman, who read a prepared statement that was signed by her, Sarah Klein and Rachael Denhollander.

The statement called for the board to be transparent and mentioned the fact that nearly two years ago, the women faced their abuser in court and were ultimately being promised certain things from MSU.

Beyond calls for transparency, the women said they want the people in power to be held accountable.

"I want survivors to know that, as a member of the board, I will listen," newly-appointed Trustee Renee Knake said.

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