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The audience that compelled the world to listen to the survivors of Larry Nassar

This article is the first in a seven part series, "A year later: Larry Nassar and Las women who made us listen ", commemorating the seven days a woman was in East Lansing, Michigan. , cut last year and read statements of great impact on former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State coach Larry Nassar.

Almost a year ago, almost to the day, Morgan McCaul was in a small courtroom in East Lansing, Michigan, ready to face his abuser, the former coach from USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University Larry Nassar. With her pixie hair and her tortoiseshell glasses, the tiny 18-year-old student at the University of Michigan did not look especially formidable.

Then she started talking.

"Every gulp of admiration I had for you is gone," McCaul told Nassar, the doctor she had respected and who had called a friend. "The man he thought he knew did not exist, only a selfish predator whose atrocities know no limits."

The beige court room, ordinarily unremarkable, buzzed with energy that day as dozens of women waited their turn to read the victim's impact statements to the man who had put their lives upside down at some point in the past two decades. An army of more than 150 survivors had arrived for the battle.

"Since the reports of Larry Nassar's misconduct began to the Michigan State faculty in 1997, two years before I was born, I can not help but wonder," McCaul continued. "How many little girls could have been saved from this lifelong battle if someone in college had done the minimum and listened?"

When McCaul finished, she stepped back from the podium, emotional but decided, and looked at Nassar.

Nearly 365 days later, McCaul says it was this moment and that historic audience that changed his life forever.


Ali Lapetina for HuffPost

Morgan McCaul, 19, holds his original impact statement about the former US Gymnastics coach. UU And Michigan State University Larry Nassar, who read in court last year.

Days before McCaul and his legion of self-proclaimed "surviving sisters" confronted Nassar in court, I published an article about the 140 women who had publicly accused Nassar of sexual abuse at that time . While their stories drew attention in the Lansing area (thanks to first-class reports from the local media), they still had not received the international attention they would ultimately receive. It was frustrating and disappointing to see dozens of stories of serial abuse discarded by traditional media.

Half a dozen survivors described a sense of hopelessness before sentencing, and HuffPost was told last year that it appeared that the country simply did not care about the abuse they had suffered. Some attribute it to sexism. Others believed that the lack of public attention was due to the fact that most of Nassar's victims were not Olympic gymnasts.

"We can not make anyone pay attention to this." We did everything possible and we could not get people to worry, "Sarah Klein, a lawyer and one of Nassar's first known victims, told Klein this year. "We knew that what Michigan State had done was wrong, we knew that what USAG had done was wrong, and we wanted to tell our story, but we could not get any traction."

It was a sentencing hearing, of all things, that finally made the country take notice. On January 16, 2018, in a small courtroom in Michigan, 169 women and family members began reading shocking statements about the victim's impact on the once-famous sports medicine physician.

I could feel it in that room. Finally, we were regaining our power and the world was listening.
Amanda Thomashow, MSU graduate and Nassar survivor

"I could feel it in that room," the survivor of Nassar told HuffPost. MSU graduate, Amanda Thomashow. "Finally, we were regaining our power and the world was listening."

It is common for victims of a crime to have the opportunity to read a statement. But this was different. The Ingham County Circuit Court Judge, Rosemarie Aquilina, adopted a unique and, at times, controversial approach, allowing each person to speak, which meant that, instead of lasting one or two days, the hearing lasted one week.

"I have to take the girl who once went to court and get on that podium," Klein told HuffPost. "And I have to speak for her."

That week, and those women, forced the country to finally face the atrocious abuses of Nassar and the institutional complicity that enabled it for so long

By the end of the seven days, the prosecutors had identified more than 265 accusers. And that was before more survivors faced Nassar during an additional sentence in Charlotte, Michigan.

Today, Nassar is accused of sexually abusing nearly 500 young athletes and is serving a life sentence on several counts of child sexual abuse.


JEFF KOWALSKY through Getty Images

People react when Nassar hears the impact statements during his sentencing phase at the Ingham County Circuit Court, January 2018.

HuffPost talked to almost all the women we talked about in last year's article, plus some additional survivors: McCaul, Klein, Thomashow, Larissa Boyce, Christine Harrison and Jessica Smith. A year later, now that the audience is finally listening, I wanted to know: MSU and USAG corrected their mistakes?

"I find it really interesting how many people are still willing to put money and the medals and the institutional reputation ahead of the survivors, even under intense public scrutiny, "said McCaul.

All the women agreed: the country may finally be paying attention, but EE. UU Gymnastics and Michigan State No.

" I still fear that the institutions are not listening," said Harrison, an MSU graduate and former gymnast and soccer player. "Survivors of sexual assault should never ask to be heard or believed, and unfortunately I think that's what we had to do this past year."

Time and again, MSU, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee have neglected decades of institutional failures, despite shameful resignations, criminal charges and even bankruptcies .

At MSU, former president Lou Anna K. Simon, former gymnastics coach Kathie Klages and former dean of osteopathic medicine MSU and former Nassar chief William Strampel have been accused of lying to the police, negligent negligent and in Strampel's case, sexual misconduct

Even more distressing to many survivors, interim president of MSU, John Engler, closed a $ 10 million healing fund in December originally intended for counseling and other services for victims of Nassar. The school redirected that money to an existing $ 500 million agreement divided among the 332 women who sued the school. This movement left dozens of other prosecutors, who were not part of the lawsuit, unable to raise support funds for necessary counseling and other mental health services. (Last week, the MSU board of trustees voted to establish a new fund, although Board Chair Dianne Byrum said that "the details still need to be resolved.")

Smith, a dance teacher, mocked the incompetence of MSU in its attempts to correct the course after the Nassar scandal.

 Jessica Smith, left, and Christine Harrison, right, went through mediation together and soon after they became dear friends.


Ali Lapetina for HuffPost

Jessica Smith, on the left, and Christine Harrison, on the right, spent mediation together and soon became dear friends.

"I teach students as young as 2 years, and in my experience, 2-year-olds are better at taking responsibility than Michigan State University," he said. "Children do not necessarily understand what they are doing, but they understand when their friend says" That hurts me ""

Thomashow said that in order for MSU to improve, the school needs to listen to the experts and advocates that you have at your disposal as part of the recently created Expert Working Group on Sexual Violence and Sexual Misconduct. The group is made up of "defenders of rock stars," said Thomashow, including Andrea Munford, the chief detective of the MSU Special Victims Unit who opened the Nassar case in 2016.

"I know they have it in MSU," said Thomashow. "It's just listening to experts and, in fact, having an evidence-based, trauma-based approach to preventing and responding to sexual assault."

Typically, such an answer would involve training officials on the importance of believing in survivors and fighting victims. It would also include law enforcement training on how trauma works and its effects on delays in reporting and memory loss. The university has not yet implemented programs that specifically address these problems.

Meanwhile, at USA Gymnastics, former president Steve Penny and former coach Debbie Van Horn also face criminal charges. Van Horn was indicted in June on charges of sexually assaulting a girl while working at the infamous USAG training facility, the Karolyi Ranch in Walker County, Texas.

 Amanda Thomashow, 29, poses for a portrait in the bed where she originally wrote her impact statement about Nassar a year ago


Ali Lapetina for HuffPost

Amanda Thomashow, 29, poses for a portrait in the bed where she originally wrote her impact statement about Nassar a year ago.

In one of the most obvious mistakes, USAG named Mary Lee Tracy for the prestigious role of elite development coordinator, only to learn that she had defended Nassar in December 2016, when of 50 women He already accused him of serial sexual abuse. Days later, she resigned.

For its part, the US Olympic Committee. UU., The same organization in charge of straightening the boat after Nassar, has not been able to land on its feet. The organization announced in November that it planned to decertify USA Gymnastics, but USAG declared bankruptcy, a final effort to stabilize the organization, before decertification takes place. At the time of writing, USA Gymnastics is still working.

Last month, it was revealed that two senior USOC officials removed emails containing disturbing accusations against Nassar in 2015 and did not report it. One of the officers was fired for the revelation; the other had retired a few months earlier.

McCaul alternated between anger, frustration and total exhaustion when he discussed the various institutional errors.

"If international attention is not enough to force institutional leaders to change their behavior, what is it?" He said, adding that money repeatedly had priority over girls' lives.

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If international attention is not enough to force institutional leaders to change their behavior, what is it?
Morgan McCaul, student at the University of Michigan and survivor of Nassar

Reached for comment, the representatives of USAG and Michigan State expressed his remorse for the trauma of the survivors by pointing out the changes that their respective institutions have made after Nassar.

"A year ago, more than 150 brave women did gymnastics and all sports, more confident in sharing their stories and the personal impact of Larry Nassar's despicable crimes," said Kathryn Carson, president of the board of directors of USA Gymnastics. he said to HuffPost. "We deeply regret the horrible acts that hurt so many of our athletes, we will never forget it and we are eternally grateful for their courage in advancing."

Carson said "many things have changed" last year, citing USAG's rotation in leadership and highlighting that the group has implemented safe sports policies and has worked to create a culture of greater responsibility.

"We know we have more "We are committed to taking the necessary steps to foster a positive, encouraging and safe environment where all our members feel comfortable speaking and have the opportunity to thrive and follow their dreams of gymnastics."

Emily Guerrant, a spokeswoman for MSU, told HuffPost that the university is "extraordinarily sorry" for all the damage Nass's crimes have caused and the school's own failures.

"As we learn and move forward, the university continues to participate and invest in an intense effort of cultural reform and change to ensure that the University of Michigan State is a safe campus for students, teachers, staff and our community, "he said. He said. "The MSU has taken many steps to address situations of sexual misconduct, including the implementation of a new escort policy and the strengthening of mandatory notification policies for all staff."

 McCaul in his apartment in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is studying political science at the University of Michigan.


Ali Lapetina for HuffPost

McCaul in his apartment in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is studying political science at the University of Michigan.

Looking to the future, there is no single solution for three different institutions that failed equally to women. The cleanup promises to be complicated, as organizations try to unlearn decades of bad behavior.

McCaul, like Thomashow, stressed the importance of prioritizing and focusing survivors in the wake of Nassar.

"If the health and well-being of the people you hurt are at the forefront of your mind, I think that will create an environment and create a mindset for real progress," he said.

And if the past year has shown something, is that the surviving sisters will stop at nothing to hold these organizations accountable. All the women agreed that their fight is not over.

"It's clear that fame, money and attention are what motivate them," Smith said of USA Gymnastics and MSU. "Let us be clear, however, you can not buy us, there is no amount of money, there is no amount of fame or attention that can make us stop."

"A year later: Larry Nassar and the women who made us listen" is a seven-part series commemorating the seven days the women were in court Judith Rosemarie Aquilina East Lansing, Michigan, courtroom in January past. read the powerful statements about the victim's impact on former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State coach Larry Nassar. His words made history, forcing the country to finally listen and confront the abuse that Nassar committed. This series highlights the people who helped topple Nassar, as well as the people he suffered for so long.

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Illustration by Marly Gallardo for HuffPost

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