OKEMOS, MI (WLNS) – Since September of 2016, several women and girls, including Olympic gymnasts have come forward claiming former MSU doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment.
More than 130 women are suing Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics claiming Nassar sexually abused them during medical treatment.
Four women involved in that civil lawsuit talked with 6 News over the weekend, three of them spoke out publicly for the first time.
Right now, the case is in what’s called the mediation phase, which means attorneys on both sides are hoping to reach a settlement.
Before we get into why these women are revealing their real names and identities, let’s talk about some of the changes both MSU and USA Gymnastics have made since this scandal broke.
Let’s start first with USA Gymnastics:
– The organizations president, Steve Penny resigned
– The organization announced last week that a new president has been hired.
– USAG has also adopted a “safe sport” policy that requires mandatory reporting of suspicions of sexual abuse
– It also set standards to prevent what’s called “grooming behaviors”
MSU says it’s limited in what it can say due to pending litigation, but said the following steps have been taken since the university learned about the Nassar allegations last year.
-The university fired Nassar in 2016 after sexual assault allegations surfaced
– The ongoing criminal investigation by its police department has resulted in more than 20 state charges in two counties and contributed to the federal charges against Nassar
– All five of the formal Title IX complaints MSU has received, resulted in policy violations against Nassar
– The MSU HealthTeam has strengthened reinforced and centralized policies and protocols, including the role of chaperones and documentation of informed consent
–External assurance review of the MSU HealthTeam
– The university has also contracted with two sports medicine physicians to conduct a comprehensive review of how health care is delivered to student athletes
– It also created a website called “Our Commitment” to showcase its efforts to combat sexual violence; the website offers many statements/letters from MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, Board of Trustees, the MSU Police Chief and more.
But the women involved in the civil lawsuit believe these actions aren’t enough.
“It’s the people, the culture, ya know the society that is MSU that right now seems to breed negativity,” Jessica Smith said.
For months, Smith has been known as “Jane B 18 Doe.” She is seeking justice after claiming Larry Nassar sexually abused her.
Discouraged by how this past year has played out, she now wants the world to know who she is, with hopes of becoming the face of change.
“MSU has so much power that they hired this man and I trusted that and believed in that so much that MSU still has that power, and they’re not doing anything with it,” Smith said.
When asked what kind of changes she wants to see from MSU, she answered with this:
“You shouldn’t have to be on the football team to matter, you shouldn’t have to be in the Olympics to matter,” she said. “You’re a person, you should trust yourself and people should be there for you. MSU should be there for you.”
Christine Harrison is also revealing her identity. In the lawsuit, she’s known as “Jane B27 Doe.”
She’s currently a student at MSU; the same place Nassar treated her for her injuries.
“I’m a victim, I have a story,” Harrison said. “This is something that’s going to affect me for the rest of my life.”
Harrison said this past year has been an emotional roller-coaster.
“Lost a lot of trust..I see how it’s affected my family.” She said.
Adding that her biggest pain now is, how MSU is handling it.
“We have not, as victims, had any sort of answer,” she said. “There has been no release of an internal report. As a victim, I deserve to know what was going on behind closed doors. If something like this were to ever happen again, MSU is going to be, ya know the one to look at..or Penn State..but as of right now..we’re not setting the example we need to set.”
Harrison is calling on MSU to make more policy changes and wants universities across the country–to take notes.
“Something that will prevent anything like this in the future from happening again, not just at MSU but any university,” she said.
Alexis Alvarado also spoke publicly for the first time. She’s known as “Jane B30 Doe” in the lawsuit.
She said this past year hasn’t exactly been easy.
“I have good days and bad days, sometimes the bad days can be very challenging,” Alvarado said
She saw Nassar for treatment for years, into 2015, which is a year after he was told to follow a set of guidelines set forth by the dean of osteopathic medicine.
“I didn’t know these policies were put in place,” she said. “No one knew, MSU did not tell anyone or Larry didn’t tell us.”
She said she feels betrayed by the university and that thought, keeps her up at night.
“I think if they honestly knew what we went through day to day and what we thought about and how we really felt they would be doing more to try to make this right on their end and be there and not hide stuff,” she said. “Like MSU with their internal investigation; that they would have released it, like USAG did.”
While the criminal cases against Nassar are pending in state and federal courts, Alvarado thinks the Michigan Attorney General should be doing more to hold MSU accountable.
“I think that the people that were enabling Larry Nassar should be investigated or there should be consequences for them,” she said.
Larissa Boyce sat among Smith, Harrison and Alvarado. She revealed her name and identity back in March with hopes to empower other women and girls to come forward like she did.
She said she expects more from MSU.
“I think taking ownership, taking ownership that this happened on their watch,” she said. “Their employees knew about it and did nothing, ignored it, and had they taken the right steps, these girls wouldn’t be sitting next to me right now.”
MSU spokesperson Jason Cody said it is not appropriate for MSU to comment on the civil litigation out of respect for the process and everyone involved.
“MSU from the beginning has sought justice in the Larry Nassar case. As our president has said, we recognize the pain sexual violence causes and deeply regret any time someone in our community experiences it.”
Cody said MSU acknowledges the real courage for all victims of sexual violence who come forward to share their story with police or campus investigators.
“As the state and federal criminal charges facing Nassar show, his behavior was deeply disturbing and repugnant, and the responsibility for his actions is his alone. It was through the hard and diligent work of the MSU Police Department that Nassar is being brought to justice.”
Nassar faces more than 20 first degree criminal sexual conduct charges in Ingham and Eaton counties.
While he has maintained his innocence in the state cases against him, he pleaded guilty to three child pornography charges in federal court.
He is scheduled to be sentenced in the federal case the first week of December..
That same week, his trial in Ingham County is expected to start.
The mediation phase has been extended another 30 days to December 6th.