Hundreds of survivors have come forward over the past several years to report and testify against the abuses they endured at the hands of Larry Nassar. Nassar, formerly a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, used his position to intimidate, violate, molest, harass and sexually abuse hundreds of gymnasts over the course of three decades. He now resides in federal prison, where he will serve for the rest of his life.
Had it not been for these survivors, who so bravely stood to tell their stories and face their abuser, not only for for years in athletic training but also for days on end during court proceedings — and who are now well-known advocates for survivors’ rights and against sexual assault — Nassar would still be practicing medicine and abusing young athletes.
This has been made clear time and time again; Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis said at Nassar’s sentencing in East Lansing that, “What finally started this reckoning and ended this decades-long cycle of abuse was investigative reporting. Without that first Indianapolis Star story in August 2016; without the story where Rachael (Denhollander) came forward publicly shortly thereafter — he would still be practicing medicine, treating athletes and abusing kids.”
Denhollander, who is now just one of hundreds of athletes who endured Nassar’s sexual violence, is also now one of hundreds of brave advocates for social change with regard to sexual abuse. There have been hundreds of names written in lists of survivors of Nassar, but these individuals are far more than names on a list — these athletes are living beings of resilience, strength, courage and justice. These athletes have been abused, silenced, ignored and belittled, and yet have continued to stand in solidarity as examples of survivorhood.
Certainly, had it not been for the determined journalists — first, at the IndyStar, where a team exposed Nassar’s history of abuse; and later, national, local and student journalists and news outlets who were present for each day of the trials — this tragedy could have continued.
Through their writing and reporting, these journalists were able to advocate for those who needed a platform to vocalize the tragedy they had endured. From hours of survivor statements in the courtroom to hours conducting one-on-one interviews before and after with these brave survivors, to days of research on the unfathomable timeline during which these crimes were able to occur, these journalists had one idea in mind: To use the power of words, the freedom of the press and fundamental necessity for truth-telling to serve justice and allow for untold, repressed narratives to be vocalized. When so many elite education and sports institutions failed the survivors of Nassar’s abuse, including Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and more, journalists made a critical difference writing stories that desperately needed to be told.
Though these journalists were able to bring this story to light because of the bravery of the survivors who courageously went public with their stories, it is the survivors who have advocated for one another and themselves, seeking out platforms to report these heinous and inexcusable crimes. Ultimately, it is the survivors who continue speaking out to make sure that this kind of abuse spread across three decades will never happen again, and it is the survivors who have demonstrated strength and resilience in numbers and in voice.
Alexa St. John
The Michigan Daily
In Their Own Words Media Partner
Press Coverage of the Trial
Michigan Daily journalists, including Riyah Basha, Sophie Sherry, Andrew Hiyama, and photographers Claire Meingast and Zoey Holstrom, were present for much of the Nassar trial in East Lansing. The following are articles published by The Michigan Daily during that time. Look for more stories from The Daily in the near future.
January 22, 2018: Survivors take the stand and call for Lou Anna Simon resignation on day four of Larry Nassar trial
January 24, 2018: Nassar sentenced 40-175 years
January 24, 2018: Simon officially resigns as MSU president after Nassar sentencing
January 26, 2018: Morgan McCaul: From victim to survivor
February 5, 2018: Nassar receives third sentence of 40 to 125 years in prison for sexual assault charges
March 2, 2018: University gymnast first male victim to file suit against Larry Nassar