This article is the fourth installment of "A year later: Larry Nassar and the women who made us listen", a seven-part series commemorating the seven days that a woman was in Lansing, Michigan, The court last year He faced his abuser, former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State coach Larry Nassar. Read more deadlines: One | Two | Three | Five | Six | Seven
Amanda Thomashow went to the microphone and took a deep breath.
Her pixie-cut, pale blond hair stood out in the sea of women waiting for their turn to read the victim's impact statements in a court in Lansing, Michigan, on a sad day in January last year. More than 150 of them had appeared to deliver heartbreaking statements to their abuser, the famous US Gymnastics coach. UU And from Michigan State University Larry Nassar.
Thomashow, steel-eyed and unwavering, seized the moment.
"You could have broken us," he told Nassar, "but from this rubble we will rise like an army of warrior women, who will never leave you, nor any man drunk with power, escape such evil ever again."
Thomashow was a 24-year-old student at Michigan State University when she met Nassar for the first time. It was in the spring of 2014. Thomashow's mother recommended the renowned sports medicine doctor for Amanda's ongoing hip and back pain, attributed to some cheerleading injuries in high school. After all, his younger sister, Jessica, also saw him, and he seemed to be helping her.
That appointment with Nassar changed the trajectory of Thomashow's life. In the two or three hours she spent with him, says Thomashow, the former doctor stroked her breast and touched her vagina. Despite her protests, Nassar continued to assault her and even made a follow-up appointment for her book.
"I remembered being in his exam room, after he attacked me, and there were all these pictures on the walls of the women we discovered later that he had abused," Thomashow, now 29, told me. . "I remember sitting there with all these little girls in these pictures, smiling at me and thinking:" If he is abusing me, is he also abusing you? ""
Thomashow, who was studying to become a neurosurgeon when the encounter occurred, submitted a Title IX report, convinced that what Nassar had done was wrong. A little over a month later, MSU concluded that Nassar's behavior was not sexual in nature. Thomashow, they said, simply confused a medical procedure with an assault.
"For some reason I felt really embarrassed and ashamed of myself," Thomashow said, remembering the moment he read MSU's conclusion. "I felt stupid and small for reporting something I was so sure it was a sexual assault, and then they told me it was not, I started to doubt myself for years."
It was not until two years later, when a second woman submitted a Title IX report with MSU complaining about Nassar's behavior, that the school better observed her accusations. The university discovered that Thomashow had always been right about Nassar
"Given what we know now, it was not a question of MSU believing me," Thomashow said. "It was a matter of them taking action."
The Michigan native grew up a few blocks from the MSU campus. As a child, Thomashow said, she ran in a green and white Spartan cheerleading uniform and could often hear football matches from the window of her room on Saturday afternoons.
"They were in my DNA," he said. "It was the place where, when they assaulted me, I trusted them with the information and I thought they would do the right thing, that's how much I admired that university, but they did not care, MSU saw dollar signs instead of a human being."
I lived for years wondering if I was alone, if he had hurt other people.
Reached to comment on the Thomashow case, a spokesperson for MSU said the school's Title IX office reached its 2014 conclusion "based on the information available at that time."
"While ultimately no policy violation was found, the report noted several areas of concern, including lack of adequate explanation of a sensitive procedure or giving the patient the option of having someone else in the room," Spokeswoman Emily Guerrant told HuffPost, "These concerns, as well as recommendations for new practices, were communicated to Larry Nassar and his leadership, and when it was later discovered that these concerns were not adequately addressed, Nassar was canceled."
"We can understand how Amanda Thomashow and other survivors of Nassar feel that their safety was not prioritized by the university," Guerrant continued. "We greatly regret all the damage Nassar committed and all the people who were injured, and the ways in which the university failed them."
The Thomashow Title IX complaint was one of the main catalysts that led to the disappearance of Nassar. MSU fired Nassar and USA Gymnastics cut ties with him. Soon after, he was charged with multiple counts of child sexual abuse and charges of child pornography. After three sentencing hearings, two of which saw a historical number of survivors who read impact statements describing their experiences and trauma, Nassar is now serving a life sentence. The famous sports medicine doctor has been accused by nearly 500 young athletes of sexual abuse.
It was during that sentencing hearing in January 2018, before the Judge of the Ingham County Circuit Court, Rosemarie Aquilina, that everything changed for Thomashow.
"Being in that room, I felt that the purpose of my life changed," he told me, almost a day after the historic sentence that put Nassar behind bars from 40 to 175 years.
"I lived for years wondering if I was alone, if I had hurt other people, hoping I had not done it," he said. "But then, suddenly, I was sitting there with hundreds of other survivors and I thought: I have to stop this . I have to do everything possible to prevent this from happening again . "
Today, Thomashow is a sexual assault coordinator on the campus of the Michigan Board of Prevention and Treatment of Domestic and Sexual Violence. Collaborates with universities throughout the state to create programs to prevent sexual violence and works to focus survivors on each project they pursue. Appropriately, Thomashow works with victims of Michigan State, the same campus where she was attacked.
"It seems that we, as a society, favor money over human lives, and our rules reinforce it," Thomashow said as our conversation turned to the new Title IX guidelines, which the education secretary proposed in November.
The proposal prioritizes schools and institutions over victims of sexual assault by making it more difficult to report gender violence. One of the key provisions that many have criticized is that universities would only be responsible for the misconduct that occurs on campus.
Under these new guidelines, Thomashow would not have been able to file his Title IX 2014 complaint, one of the key developments that led to the fall of Nassar.
"I was one block from the campus in an MSU building, with an MSU doctor, as an MSU student, with an MSU resident who was asked to leave the room just before I was assaulted," he said. "But I was not a student, and I was not on campus, so the university could have shirked responsibility for my abuse according to the new guidelines."
Nassar could still be practicing medicine today if those guidelines were in force while she was a student. And that's why, said Thomashow, she continues to do the work she does.
Looking back over the years, Thomashow is understandably tired. Dealing with her own trauma, and discovering that Nassar also abused her younger sister, has cost her and her family a lot
"There is really no word in our dictionary to describe what the latter was like year, "he told me. "It has been both a mix of really difficult things and a mix of changes, good changes."
However, she finds comfort in her work and the promise she made to herself to always trust in her guts. Before we said goodbye, I asked what I would say to another survivor, after everything that has happened.
"This does not mean you're broken, you're not damaged, you're just a different you, and you have to survive it," he said. "Do it through fire, and then help other people through fire, too."
"A year later: Larry Nassar and the women who made us listen" is a seven-part series commemorating the seven days that the women were in court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, Lansing , Michigan, last room January and read the powerful statements about the impact of the victim to former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State coach Larry Nassar. His words made history, forcing the country to finally listen and face the abuse that Nassar committed. This series highlights the people who helped to bring down Nassar, as well as the people he suffered for so long
Need help? Visit the National RAINN Hotline for Sexual Assault or the website of the National Resource Center on Sexual Violence