Larry Nassar faces sentencing this week after pleading guilty in November to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct. The hearing in Ingham County in Michigan is expected to last from Tuesday to Friday, according to the Lansing State Journal.
The number of women who have accused Nassar of assault numbers more than 140, stemming from his involvement with Michigan State and USA Gymnastics. Here’s a primer on Nassar, the allegations against him, and the court proceedings this week.
Who is Larry Nassar? What are the allegations against him?
Nassar, 54, is a former physician for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. He served on the staff of Michigan State’s athletic department from 1997 until his firing in September 2016 following Nassar’s arrest for “criminal sexual conduct with a person younger than 13.” Nassar worked for USA Gymnastics from 1986 to 2015.
Nassar worked full-time at Michigan State, seeing patients at MSU, Great Lakes Gymnastics, local gymnastics club Twistars, and at Holt High School. He also saw patients at his home, according to an ESPN report.
ESPN’s John Barr and Dan Murphy detailed several allegations against Nassar, all of which followed a similar pattern involving the doctor penetrating young gymnasts with his fingers on multiple occasions. Former Michigan State gymnast Lindsey Lemke accused Nassar of sexually assaulting her on hundreds of occasions, starting when she was 12 years old.
From the ESPN report:
Doctors interviewed by Outside the Lines say intravaginal and intrarectal treatments have been used for decades to treat medical problems such as pelvic floor dysfunction, which can occur when muscles on the pelvic floor become weak or tight. The treatments can also be used for interstitial cystitis, a painful bladder syndrome. But those same doctors say the procedures are never performed without gloves, a chaperone in the room and, in the case of a minor, parental consent.
Some of Nassar’s accusers say they’ve been talking for 20 years, but no action was taken
ESPN’s report and its Outside the Lines show on Tuesday detailed examples of accusers whose complaints about Nassar appeared to fall on deaf ears. MLive detailed several instances of Michigan State athletes coming forward with complaints that went unheeded. MLive and ESPN both mentioned gynmasts who told now-retired Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathie Klages about Nassar’s “treaments,” only to have Klages discourage them from filing official complaints.
“They just kept it quiet, and that is what’s so hard — knowing that if adults were to make the right decision and do the right thing at the right time, that the abuse could have stopped,” one gymnast told ESPN.
USA Gymnastics and Michigan State both investigated Nassar but elected not to suspend or fire him. From MLive:
The five institutions investigating Nassar’s alleged assaults:
- Michigan State University, which received a formal complaint in April 2014 from a Nassar patient at the MSU Sports Medicine Clinic;
- The MSU Police Department, which investigated the 2014 complaint;
- The Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office, which reviewed the 2014 case;
- USA Gymnastics, which heard from three elite gymnasts in June and July 2015 that Nassar was performing questionable medical treatments;
- The FBI, which investigated the 2015 USAG complaints.
In addition to those organizations, the U.S. Olympic Committee learned in the summer of 2015 that Nassar was accused of sexual misconduct.
USA Gymnastics released the following statement in November following Gabby Douglas’ decision to come forward with allegations against Nassar:
We admire the strength shown by Gabby and her teammates in speaking out publicly to hold a predator accountable.
The organization has taken specific and concrete steps to prevent future abuse by adopting the USA Gymnastics Safe Sport Policy. pic.twitter.com/MzgtWfHBvA
— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) November 22, 2017
“I don’t know how they sleep at night,” gymnast Aly Raisman said of USA Gymnastics officials on Outside The Lines. “I’m so angry that after realizing that we were abused, they let him continue to molest gymnasts.”
Nassar is already in prison in a separate case
Nassar was sentenced in December to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges. That’s a separate case from what’s happening this week, but it still means he could spend the rest of his life in prison no matter the outcome of the case this week.
Prosecutors have asked for a 125-year sentence in the sexual assault case, a sentence that would likely run concurrent with the sentence he’s already serving, ESPN reported. A total of 125 women filed police reports and more than 150 claimed Nassar had abused them, per ESPN.
List of Nassar’s victims is long, and includes famous gymnasts
Simone Biles is the latest big name to join the list of accusers. Raisman, Douglas, Jeanette Antolin, Jamie Dantzscher, Rachael Denhollander, Jessica Howard, Kaylee Lorincz, McKayla Maroney, Lindsey Lemke and Kamerin Moore have all come forward to say that they have been abused by Nassar.
So what’s happening this week?
Nassar is in court to receive his sentencing while his alleged victims will read “impact statements” on Tuesday. Kristin Houser, chief public affairs officer for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, explained the importance of impact statements to CNN:
“You go through all these months of keeping a secret, and then the investigation, and waiting on the court proceedings. That whole system is not at all a victim-centered experience or a system that is sensitive to the emotional toll on victims,” Houser said. “This is … the one opportunity you get to speak your piece in your own words, unedited, and say the truth about the full picture of how these things impacted your life.”
Raisman, an Olympic gold-medal winner, will have her statement read this week. She’s one of 98 women expected to speak or have a statement read at the hearings.
“Abuse is not something you just suffer in the moment,” Raisman said on ESPN. “It’s something you carry with you for the rest of your life. Even though I’m not there [Tuesday] I still feel it. It’s traumatizing, it’s nerve-wracking. This interview right now, I feel like my hands are shaking. It’s not something that’s comfortable to talk about, but I’m determined to make sure the current and future generations are safe.
“We have to keep talking about it to make sure this never happens again.”