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Sandusky in Lansing

MSU Sign at the Bogue Street Entrance on a August Summer day

A long series of victims are giving victim impact statements in the trial of serial sexual abuser Larry Nassar, describing trauma and drug abuse and ruined families and suicides. It is almost certain that Michigan State University, who employed Nassar for decades, should have been able to stop him sooner. At least 8 women informed someone at MSU about Nassar’s abuse, and the first was in 1997:

Boyce — the first person who is believed to have told someone at MSU about Nassar — reported him in 1997, almost 20 years before he was fired and prosecuted.

A 16-year-old high school student in Williamston, east of Lansing, Boyce began seeing Nassar after hurting her back in a youth gymnastics program at MSU.

Nassar put his fingers inside Boyce during weekly visits with him at his university office, and in a room near where the gymnasts practiced at Jenison Field House.

After a long appointment with Nassar at Jenison, a coach asked Boyce what was happening during that time. Boyce told the coach, who insisted that Boyce tell MSU’s then-head gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages.

Boyce doesn’t remember the name of the female coach who approached her. But she still remembers the green carpet in Klages’ office and telling her Nassar had been “fingering” her during visits.

“She just couldn’t believe that was happening,” said Boyce, now 37. “She said I must be misunderstanding what was going on.”

Klages, who was MSU women’s gymnastics coach for 27 seasons, brought several of Boyce’s fellow youth program gymnasts into her office and asked them if Nassar did the same to them.

One of them said he had. That woman, who spoke to The News on condition of anonymity, was 14 then, and remembers knowing before the meeting they would be talking about Nassar.

“I remember feeling — finally a female would be an advocate for me, and tell my dad and my mom and I won’t have to tell them about this awkward thing,” said the woman, now 35, who has filed a civil lawsuit against Nassar and MSU. “Finally we’re going to get help, something will change and we won’t have to go back to him. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, I felt very shamed.”

Boyce also felt intimidated and humiliated, and remembers what Klages said about filing a report.

“She said, ‘I can file this, but there are going to be serious consequences for you and Nassar,’” Boyce said. “I said I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble.”

Klages, who retired in February after victims came forward through lawsuits, declined to be interviewed regarding the incident or whether she told anyone else about the girls’ complaints. The response came through her attorney, Steven Stapleton of Grand Rapids.

Klages didn’t tell Boyce’s parents, but she did tell Nassar, Boyce said.

“Had I known she was such good friends with him, I would not have said anything,” Boyce said.

There are multiple stories like this — at least 8 women informed someone at MSU about Nassar’s sexual assaults, and 6 women contacted other authorities. One victim credibly alleges that a coach currently employed by MSU lied to Title IX investigators about having been told about Nassar’s abuse:

Fourteen years after Thomas Lopez said she told Teachnor-Hauk about Nassar, Teachnor-Hauk was interviewed during a Title IX investigation into Nassar’s conduct headed by Kristine Moore, then assistant director of the Institutional Equity Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives.

“Ms. Teachnor-Hauk states that she has never had a complaint about Dr. Nassar in 17 years and has no concern about him crossing the line between medically appropriate and inappropriate,” the report says.

Three years later, according to a March 2017 police report, Teachnor-Hauk told two MSU police officers and an FBI agent she “never had an athlete tell her that Nassar made them uncomfortable.”

Thomas Lopez was audibly distraught after being told by a reporter of Teachnor-Hauk’s statements in the Title IX and police reports.

She began sobbing. “That is not my truth,” Thomas Lopez said. “My life has been turned upside down because she decided not to tell my truth.”

Teachnor-Hauk did not respond to requests for comment for this story. She remains an athletic trainer in charge of MSU women’s gymnastics and supervises training for the varsity and novice rowing teams, as well as the Jenison training room.

When the Title IX complaint was brought against Nassar in 2014, MSU’s investigation did not consult any expert from outside of MSU:

Thomashow — who had kept her identity concealed until this week — told the investigator Nassar worked on her shoulder and massaged her breast “like your boyfriend would while you were making out with him,” according to the report.

She tried to stop him, but Nassar continued, massaging her over the top of her clothes and then moving his hands underneath her sweat pants.

“He began to massage her with three fingers in a circular motion in her vaginal area,” according to the Title IX report. “She states that he was extremely close to inserting a finger into her.”

The report includes interviews with the victim’s mother and three of her friends, plus Nassar and three MSU medical manipulation specialists — Dr. Brooke Lemmen, Dr. Lisa DeStefano and Dr. Jennifer Gilmore — plus Teachnor-Hauk, the MSU athletic trainer. All told investigators that Nassar’s behavior was medically appropriate, according to the report.

All four of the people who determined that this constituted appropriate medical treatment knew Nassar personally. This is the point at which there is no possible defense of MSU’s actions. I suppose we don’t know to an absolute certainly than an actual independent expert would have been more skeptical that breast and vaginal massages constituted legitimate medical treatment, but we certainly know that the investigation was incompetent and didn’t take the complaint nearly seriously enough. At least 12 women were assaulted after Nassar was cleared.

We’ll see where the investigations lead, but this seems as bad or worse as the complicity of officials at Penn State in the Sandusky scandal.

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