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After the Larry Nassar Scandal: Expert Weighs in on Moving Forward

The fallout of the Nassar sexual-abuse scandal goes far beyond Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. (lovelac/wikimediacommons)
The fallout of the Nassar sexual-abuse scandal goes far beyond Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. (lovelac/wikimediacommons)
January 25, 2018

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Disgraced Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison this week for sexually assaulting dozens of athletes in his care.

One psychologist says the case speaks to a much bigger cultural crisis. Many of the 156 women who came forward to speak at Nassar's sentencing said their complaints about him were ignored for years.

Dr. Eddie O'Connor is a Grand Rapids-based clinical and sports psychologist, who said while the safety of the athlete should always be the number-one priority for coaches, trainers, parents and all adults involved, the Nassar scandal shows how far we still have to go when it comes to truly listening.

"There's fear, there's people's jobs, there's money, and there's also the idea that we don't want to believe such horrible things can happen,” O’Connor said. “So, I think there's also a fair amount of psychological denial on the part of some people."

The Michigan House of Representatives has passed a resolution calling on MSU President Lou Anna Simon to step down, joining a growing chorus expressing disappointment and anger over missed opportunities to stop Nassar and protect students. She officially resigned late Thursday evening.

O'Connor said while the attention has been rightly focused on the brave women who spoke this week and the horrors they endured, true change needs to come from the other locker room.

"And all of that is true and it's right, and punishments and policies and procedures,” he said. “But if we're really going to make a difference and protect, we have to kind of look and say, 'It's the men that are committing these crimes. And so, how are we raising boys? How are we raising men?'"

Nassar previously was sentenced to 60 years in prison on federal child pornography charges, and also pleaded guilty to three additional charges of criminal sexual conduct, for which he will be sentenced next week.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI