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How the Larry Nassar case could spark institutional change

The catalyst of the #metoo movement, Larry Nassar’s trial has been one of the most followed cases of criminal sexual conduct in recent history. A renowned sports medicine doctor for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, Nassar was accused of sexually abusing upwards of 200 young female athletes during his tenure. Nassar’s criminal trial recently concluded, in which he was convicted and sentenced to what will likely be the rest of his life in prison.

If your child had been the victim of such abuse, what form of justice would you want to see? According to attorney Brian J. McKeen, life behind bars is not enough. He wants to see “full and complete compensation to all of Nassar's victims.”

McKeen is representing Dr. Mary Fisher, the mother of two daughters who were both victims of Nassar’s abuse. In the wake of Nassar’s recent criminal conviction and sentencing, McKeen is leading the charge on civil lawsuits against Nassar, Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics.

Why is this so important?

McKeen contends that blame also needs to be placed on the institutions that enabled such egregious behavior to occur. He asserts that Michigan State University had a responsibility to intervene when it first received reports of abuse in 1996. Instead, it turned a blind eye to these offenses.

As media attention to the Nassar case has grown, Michigan State University has released statements claiming it wants justice of Nassar’s victims. However, the university has also filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuits against it—claiming protections under the statute of limitations and government immunity. In a recent interview, McKeen said he finds these contradictory messages “highly disturbing.”

Protections now and in the future

McKeen wants to see the institutions that employed Nassar held responsible for their negligence and omission, which had an enabling effect in these tragic crimes. He holds that this is a critical step—not just for victims to receive restitution—but also to help ensure that these institutions take an active role in preventing such crimes from ever happening again.

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