Thursday, January 25, 2018

Courage -- A Slightly Different Post for Me


Yup. Sometimes I write about serious things with a lot of words. But these matter, because they speak to the courage of young women who have been wronged, hurt. They are the strongest women I know -- not personally, but I would be honored to be their friend. Their collective stories have shaken a university that turned their heads away from them to the core. I am already in their court.

Source: The Detroit Free Press

A lot of my international blog readers probably don't have a clue where Lansing, Michigan is. But I've been surprised that more than one of you, living in other countries, have emailed me about a trial happening here in my home town. I guess news has crossed the pond. I've read articles (or translations) in online newspaper reports from the UK, Canada, France, Germany and even Al Jazeera.


Lansing is in the heart of mid-Michigan and is the home of Michigan State University, the university where I worked for many years (and from which I received both my degrees) and for my money, one of the most beautiful campuses anywhere.


Larry Nassar, a doctor employed by the U, has been on trial for molesting young women, many from the time they were little girls, under the guise of medical treatment. These young women were aspiring gymnasts, some children at a local gymnastics center. Others were Michigan State University students and still more, Olympic athletes and national champions. Nassar, also served as team doctor for the United States Olympic team and USA Gymnastics.

This story has been circulating in our community and in national press for at least a decade and even before that. Girls were told they didn't understand the medical treatments they were being given when they reported abuse. Colleagues and coaches supported him.


His method was simple. Be the friendly guy, the one who gave them treats, brought them gifts. The kind of guy you didn't really want to go against because he was , well, so nice. His reputation as the Olympics' team physician added a certain allure to the impressionable and aspiring gymnasts. If the treatments for their injuries seemed odd, well, so be it. Fame and reputation can make even parents and colleagues turn a blind eye. And besides, a young girl -- or two or ten or more -- against a reputable doctor?


But it was more than one girl. More than 200 girls, some now young women, filed suits, including leading stars in the gymnastics world, like Simone Biles, Mckayla Maroney (who broke her non-disclosure agreement), Ali Raisman, and Jordyn Wieber.

Recently, Nassar pleaded guilty to some of the abuse charges and was also sentenced 60 years for federal child pornography charges.

This past week, our little city became a focal point and was seen around the world as Nassar, found guilty for molesting and abusing these young women, has been listening to the victim impact statements for additional sentencing for the abuse charges.

More than 150 young women and in some cases, their parents, have given profoundly moving statements in court, including Olympians Raisman and Weiber and victim number one, Rachel Denhollander.


At one point, several days into the impact statements, Nassar asked if he could be excused from court because listening to these statements was bad for his mental health. (He also blamed the media for bad press -- a pretty common argument these days -- and told the judge she just wanted to be on TV a lot, so that was why she was making him listen to all the victim statements.)

Let's just say the judge, Rosemarie Aquilina -- who will get my vote for anything she runs for -- was not amused.

In the end, Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40-175 years in prison, to be served after his federal sentence. He will begin trial soon for three more related offenses in another Michigan county. There is subsequent fallout in the U.S. gymnastics world.

The prosecutor also praised the efforts of investigative journalism (Indianapolis Star) who happened onto a story about a complaint to USGA that had been ignored. Without this fine reporting and Denhollander going on record, this may well have continued. Subsequent reporting by other media outlets, including in-depth coverage on ESPN's Outside the Lines, has been stellar.

These women have the courage of champions. They told of their experiences in graphic detail. The impact of these events resulted in more than one suicide, self immolation and shattering memories that cannot be erased. They have been praised and supported by media, demonstrations  on their behalf and most especially through Aquilina, the sentencing judge, who made her courtroom a safe place for these young women to tell their stories.


Through all this, the university remained relatively silent, turning a blind eye. They did not initially cooperate with an investigation into their role. An investigation by the Detroit News revealed that at least 14 representatives and leaders from Michigan State knew of such reports over the years, including President Lou Anna Simon

While some heads have rolled in individual departments, the higher levels have avoided this one like the plague. One of the board of trustees stated "we have more to worry about than this Nassar thing" and the board fell in line to support the university president, one of the more money-grubbing human beings I've been associated with during my time at MSU. (Now the NCAA -- National Collegiate Athletic Association -- has finally launched an investigation into the University's complicity.)

The state House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for her resignation or dismissal, as did numerous editorials and news commentary. The university faculty had a vote of no confidence. And social media was screaming with posts pushing the president and board to resign and let Michigan State begin to heal and rebuild and attempt to become the school it once was, where students matter more than money and outward appearances.


Late yesterday, Lou Anna Simon, MSU's president, did resign. Her resignation letter left much to be desired, making it more like she was taking it for the team, stating that of course people would blame the president and that it was a shame all this was politicized. It's all about the money. But what about the people, what about those girls? What about the girls to come? She danced around apology -- the "I'm sorry he was a bad guy" argument -- but never once took responsibility that more effective action was never taken. No personal "I'm sorry." But that's typical. This woman can spin with the best of them.

These gymnasts are not the first women to have been abused by a trusted medical professional as a child or adolescent. This I know to be true. And those encounters leave a mark that takes decades to heal, if it ever really does, and the love and support of those who matter most to a child or young woman.


These strong, young, rightfully angry women have a courage some of us may never know. The youngest among them has the strength of a champion, the champions standing in that courtroom. I applaud each and every one and thank them for speaking out. They are my heroes.


Spring will come soon to MSU and to these strong women. May it bring a new start and sorely needed healing. (And if you've read with me this long, thanks more than you know.)

46 comments:

Silver Willow said...

Glad he's gone for life, but I suspect it's not yet over for the university, despite the president quitting. I've heard that it makes the Sandusky situation at Penn State look mild by comparison, so expect more fall out to come and spread out over that institution. And shame on the prez for her public comments!!!

Sandi said...

So much is coming to light these days, like a veil has been lifted.

Joanne Huffman said...

God bless those young women!

I need orange said...

Abuse of power is so ubiquitous. And so appalling. Only when we decline to abuse power are we acting as human beings rather than merely showing our inborn animal nature......

So terrible that this man did terrible things to the most vulnerable (little girls!), for years and years and years and years. At least as terrible that the establishment protected him for all that time, and even still. Shame, shame, shame!

I agree with you that these young women are heroes, and hope with you that they are able to overcome what happened to them.

"Listening to them was bad for his mental health." !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As though the state of his mental health, after all he did to so many, is reasonably of any concern to anyone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Did he care about THEIR mental health? Clearly not! He is being shown more concern than he ever showed those little girls -- no one is eye-for-eyeing to him the things he did.

The LEAST he can do is be required to listen to them speak about the results of his actions.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr..........................

Thank you for helping the voices of all those young women be heard, Jeanie.

Mac n' Janet said...

Hope he enjoys his incarceration. Too bad he's not younger so he could serve longer.

Pam Richardson said...

Oh Jeanie, this is appalling that the U knew of this and turned a blind eye. I am so glad these young women are strong and courageous. The judge gave the doctor what he deserved. I couldn’t believe he said he couldn’t watch because of the mental anguish, what about all these young ladies he molested! Thank you for your amazing writing ability and standing for the truth!

eileeninmd said...

Hello, these women and young girls are so brave to come forward. Even though in the past their complaints were ignored. That is just amazing to me, how could the University know about this and not stop it and protect the girls. The doctor got what he deserved and the University should take blame for keeping quiet. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

Linda @ A La Carte said...

Jeanie, I've been watching this with you and applaud the young women for speaking out and their courage. When I first heard of this I was stunned, angry, sad and just flat out devastated! I love gymnastics and my younger daughter was a gymnast for many years. To know the hard work and sacrifice that any athlete goes through to reach these high levels and then to be abused is horrible but for those in positions of authority to turn a blind eye is reprehensible. I am so glad you have written about this. Courage!

Christine Graves said...

It is a shame it took this long for his actions to be judged. I am never the less happy his disgusting crimes are being brought to light because of these courageous women.

Julia - Vintage with Laces said...

It's awful that it took so many years to stop this guy from abusing all those girls and it makes me angry that earlier complaints or reports had been ignored. The president shamed herself for not taking responsibility. I can't believe that even women turned a blind eye. The mental injury is done but hopefully the girls can find some peace, now that this man was brought to justice.
xo Julia

Sandy aka Doris the Great said...

I work at a local women's centre and have been following this story closely. I too applaud these brave young women and the brave judge who sentenced him and took no bull from him. The western world is shaking with the voices of women who have not been heard for millenia. Let's not keep quiet.

Thank you for this post.

Stacey said...

Really, can you believe that situation? Well I guess I can because unfortunately, not much shocks me anymore! The story has been big news here in Texas too because Nassar was employed at Bela Karolyi's gym here in Texas for some time. It's all disgusting!! I'm with you about the judge though...she showed complete disdain for him and I'm so grateful for that.

Toni said...

Powerful post. I can't imagine how alone those hundreds of girls and young women felt when no one was listening. I agree with the judge when she said that she doesn't believe that disgusting man has any remorse for his atrocities! To not have the backbone to listen to the pain he has caused shows what a cold, soulless person he is.

The president, and all the others who turned a blind eye, sound like a bunch of sociopaths.

I am a public speaker for RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) and I think they would like to read your post. https://www.rainn.org/

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Jeanie, thank you for this beautifully written post. It will mean a lot to more people than you know, I'm sure. What a nightmare!

Joyful said...

Yep we've heard of Larry Nassar way over here in Vancouver as he's made the headline news for all the wrong reasons. I didn't connect the dots and know that he was from Lansing.

It's a lot of lives he's impacted in a very negative manner and I'm glad the judge dealt with him appropriately.

Tamara said...

Jeanie, this has been in our (Australian) news also... I paid no attention to the location of the events (sorry I hadnt connected it to your end of the world), but the tragedy and horror that comes with events like these is universal. Yes, these young women displayed courage some of us will never know, to come forward knowing that the Uni had taken no action in the past. What one individual did to these girls is now multiplied by the tragedy that no one in the institution they trusted did anything to intervene earlier. Power and abuse against individuals is just not on. Thanks for writing this beautiful piece. Well said.

Vivian Swift said...

Very nicely done. Good tribute to these heroic young women. Nasser is a creep, and a warning to all the men out there who feel equally entitled to use girls for their own satisfaction.

Marilyn Miller said...

Thanks, Jeanie!
I have been following this in the news, but for some reason didn't follow close enough to get this was taking place in Lansing. I was so proud of the girls that have spoken and for a woman judge to make him listen to these girls. It is so sad when girls and women are not listened to and have to face abuse.

Pom Pom said...

Thank you for this post, Jeanie. Oh, it's chilling what can happen. Prayers for all the victims as they deal with this for the rest of their lives.

My name is Erika. said...

Wow, I knew you have shown us photographs of a UNiversity in Michigan, but for some reason I didn't remember it was Michigan State. Wow, you have some beautiful spring photos of campus. It is too beautiful of a place for that man to be associated with. He got what he deserved and I hope all those young woman find solace and strength. It's not right. We have a sexual harassment issue going on at school right now and our administration is not being very helpful or sympathetic. I don't know if they really feel that way or if their hands are tied by the court or some fear of being sued. I have one of the students starting tomorrow and I went to a very emotional meeting today. It's amazing how administrators can be so unaware of how having this kid back in school can affect so many people. Anyhow, happy almost weekend. Hugs-Erika

bj said...

When I read things like this (and there's a lot of stories like this as in BILL COSBY), when sentencing them to prison,their penis should be CUT OFF ! Crude, I know, but that's the way I feel.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Thanks for this post, Jeannie. It was well put and said everything many of us are thinking and feeling.


Just one of many men who have violated women, but this one is even more brutal, because they are all under age, or many of them, at least. I'm glad he will never see the light of day again, except behind bars. AGain, a wonderful post.

BeachGypsy said...

Very very good post! the young women are very courageous and I am so glad they have spoken out. I also have been following this story on the news.

Blondie's Journal said...

You have a connection to this and I can feel and hear your voice. Thank God for this sentence.

As with all of the women who have come forward with abuse stories...speak out..we have your back.

Jane

Valerie-Jael said...

Healing will only come slowly when at all. I have been following the process here on TV. This is a very important subject to blog about! Hugs, Valerie

Tammie Lee said...

The things that go on in our world are hard to fathom. It is important that this is being addressed and horrid that (it ever happened) it has taken so long.

Tracy said...

A very special and beautiful post, Jeanie. This pairs so well with all happening with the #MeetToo movement and women being heard. Nassar been in the news here too... It's just sooo sad, all those girls, and for so long. And it hurts all the more when the University does not back them enough. The actions of the president just falls in complicity with the abuse--it just keeps the abuse going. Thankfully justice is beginning... God bless those girls and their courage! God bless all who have been hurt in terrible ways, and have felt alone... ((HUGS))

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

There is strength, there is power in TELLING THE TRUTH. Oh Jeanie, we must forge ahead to keep the truth alive. Bravo to these young women who will need time to heal, but will there really ever be full healing? I don't know. But they are taking back the power, the power to shed the light on the wrong. Beautiful campus; are those northern redbud trees?

Preppy Empty Nester said...

I loved the judge. So glad the Doc won't ever see the light of day again. Enjoy your weekend, Jeannie.

Regine Karpel said...

Great post.

Rita C. said...

This is so disgusting. And a friend of mine shared something I read yesterday, that porn promoters are quick to jump on this case as a fantasy plot for future films. Disgusting. The so-called leadership are as disgusting as Nassar himself. Here's to strong women. May we be them. May we raise them and nurture them.

La Table De Nana said...

Yes publicized here also..I liked the judge ..I have a feeling that behind many of the Hollywood charges..a lot of stars we admire..knew..and never said anything in defense of those who came forth.
We never know what we would do in a situation but I hope I would have not turned a blind eye.
You have but to look at the Catholic church ..etc..
Not to mention Kevin Spacey about whom..more and more stories are coming out about the set of House Of Cards.He was not alone on that set.
I applaud the young women .

Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

One of the worst culprits in these horrific and tragic stories is a society which elevates certain people to such celebrity and prestige that any action on their part is considered above reproach.
That attitude begins to be believed by the idol.
I also applauded the judge who sentenced him, in the judge's words, to a death sentence. But I doubt that it will do much to heal the young women - and so so many children - he harmed.
This kind of thing makes all men look bad - though we know tht's not true; just as Kevin Spacey makes all gay men look guilty of something, even though we know that's not true.
Your thoughtful post was appreciated.

Sharon B. said...

Jeannie, Thanks for your courage to advocate for young women--and really for all of us. The photos of MSU campus are beautiful in contrast to this ugliness. I too am hoping for new life for these young women and for the world. There are some lessons here that we must stand up for what's right. Bless you, Jeannie!

Pam Jackson said...

These young ROCK! They are amazing. I just hate that nothing was done years ago when it girls started to speak out and at that time things were shut up/shut down/ and they thought young girls just said this stuff....how can you think that a young girl would make this stuff up? I don't understand that mind set. But I am PROUD of these young women. I am proud of all the ladies that see its okay to come out with what happened to them. AMAZING! It is time for all this mess to change!

Polly said...

You have written this so beautifully Jeanie. Young children don't understand what is happening sometimes and therefore trust what they are told. The ones that turned a blind eye should be locked up too.

Deb said...

Well written, Jeanie. I wish all those brave woman a wonderful life ahead.

Jeanne Washburn said...

Beautifully written - a wonderful testament to the strength and bravery of these young women. Their light of truth has shone through.

shoreacres said...

Apparently it isn't only the women at Michigan, either. Reports were coming out this afternoon about problems in the football and basketball programs, too. It isn't surprising, actually. School after school has suffered from the blindness associated with the elevation of sports to -- well, to more than it is.

One of the most moving pieces I've read is this photo essay from HuffPo. As the person who highlighted it said, no casual camera phone user could have done this. The photos are the extraordinary work of a professional photographer, and the photos and accompanying quotations make clear how horrid this all was.

The French Hutch said...

Thanks Jeanie for your post. This story has been all over the news. This judge was not having any of his baloney! So glad he'll never be outside a prison wall again...........

Arti said...

Thanks for this timely and informative post, Jeanie. The photos help me visualize how real it is, and because of such reality, makes it even sadder. Courageous indeed for these women and girls. Thanks for the links. Rachel Denhollander's testimony is disturbing yet very moving.

Lynne said...

Written to perfection . . .
I am reminded of . . .”what goes around, comes around.”
He will never suffer enough . . .
How could this have gone on . . .
Too many of these young innocents spoke of what they had experienced and too many people heard it. . . .
And did nothing . . .
And the abuse went on and on and on.
Others are also guilty . . .
Dreadful . . .
Thanks Jeanie . . .

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

This situation is so appalling. I first heard about it on a 60 minutes story last year, I think. I could not believe it had gone on for so long. It just makes me sick. And to think that young women complained and their complaints were disregarded just makes it all the worse. I was really mad when I heard about Nasser's statement about these girls being "women scorned." He truly has no remorse. I am glad the judge made him sit through all these impact statements. I just don't care about the state of his mental health. He needs to hear about all the pain and suffering he has caused. What a filthy, disgusting man!!

Carola Bartz said...

It seems that every day we hear of new stories where young women and girls have been abused, people in power turned a blind eye and even supported and defended the abuser. It makes me incredible mad, and I applaud the courage of these girl and women to come forward. Thank you for writing about it, Jeanne, these women deserve our support.

Sally Wessely said...

Thank you for this post! First of all, I think we all are just sickened by what happened to these brave women when they were so young and no voice. To think what this monster did to them! I live where the Olympic Training Center is located. In fact, I was born just feet from where the Training Center is now located. It is only about four or five blocks from my childhood home. I wonder what all these young athletes have had to endure to perform on the world stage.

I loved seeing photos of your wonderful campus. The pink flowers spoke to me of youth, of promise, of young women, and of hope. I have great hope that all of us will be more aware and watch for signs of abuse in young women and young men. I also have great hope that the courage shown by these women will give other courage which will also them to find their voices about abuse.

Thank you for writing this powerful post.

Danielle L Zecher said...

I didn't realize this was so close to you. It's pretty much never a good thing when your hometown makes the national or international news, is it?

Judge Aquilina seems awesome! I really wish there were more judges like her. I know it may sound a little hokey, but I think it's wonderful that you may have the privilege to vote for her. So often voting seems to come down to picking the lesser of the evils, but I think she's someone I would be thrilled to vote for.

I can't imagine the courage it must have taken for these women to come forward, and to speak so publicly about what was done to them. It's hard enough for victims to come forward, but it had to be even harder for them with him being so powerful, and so many people not believing them, or choosing to ignore it.

It does sound like the university has a very long road of healing and changing ahead of them. Hopefully they will come through more compassionate and with systems in place to make sure something like this never happens there again.

Great post, by the way. Sometimes you just have to do a long, serious post. I always enjoy getting someone's take on something like this when they're closer to it. It just feels more personal and true when someone writes a post like this from the perspective of this is where I live/work/went to school.

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