Michigan State University concealed the findings of a 2014 Title IX investigation into serial sexual assailant Larry Nassar from one of his victims, the Lansing State Journal reported on Friday.
Nassar was allowed to keep seeing patients for an additional 16 months after the final Title IX report given to Amanda Thomashow determined that “[w]e cannot find that the conduct [in your complaint] was of a sexual nature.” Nassar, sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for seven counts of sexual assault on Wednesday, massaged Thomashow’s breasts and vagina against her protestations—only stopping after she removed his hands.
Thomashow reported his abuse. When the final report came in following an investigation by the school’s Title IX office, though, she was given an incomplete version of the “Conclusions and Recommendations” section. A Title IX expert told the newspaper that this failure to notify Thomashow appears to have violated the statue.
Part of the fuller section, which she did not see but was given to Nassar and the dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, William Strampel, determined this:
We find that whether medically sound or not, the failure to adequately explain procedures such as these invasive, sensitive procedures, is opening the practice up to liability and is exposing patients to unnecessary trauma based on the possibility of perceived inappropriate sexual misconduct. In addition, we find that the failure to obtain consent from patients prior to the procedure is likewise exposing the practice to liability. If procedures can be performed skin-on-skin or over clothes in the breast or pelvic floor area, it would seem patients should have the choice between the two. Having a resident, nurse or someone in the room during a sensitive procedure protects doctors and provides patients with peace of mind. …
According to ESPN, the school’s Title IX office determined that the procedure had been medically sound after interviewing four physicians with ties to Nassar, including one who was considered by colleagues a close friend and protégé of Nassar’s.
Nassar was allowed by Strampel to return to practicing but given new rules demanding that he use gloves, have another person in the room, and explain what he was doing should it be necessary that he perform procedures of a “sensitive nature.” Earlier this month, ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported that Strampel later “told [criminal investigators that] he saw no need to let others in the clinic know about Nassar’s guidelines or to set up any system that would make sure he was following them.” The new guidelines were not enforced and more than a dozen women say that they were assaulted by Nassar after the Title IX investigation. More than 150 women and girls have come forward accusing the former U.S. Olympic gymnastics trainer of sexual abuse over the past three decades, including some of the sports biggest stars.
The complete version of the Title IX report, not seen by Thomashow, also concluded that Nassar’s office should reconsider its own internal reporting mechanisms:
[W]e believe the practice should consider whether its procedure for intake of complaints about physicians’ behavior is adequate. Ms. Thomashow claims she tried to file a complaint with the front desk receptionist, telling her that she was cancelling her appointment because she felt ‘violated.’ Whether this triggers a reporting protocol should be examined by the practice.
On Friday, ESPN’s Outside the Lines published a new report documenting “a pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression” surrounding numerous episodes of allegations of sexual assault and violence against women at the university. Michigan State University athletic director Mark Hollis resigned on Friday, two days after the resignation of MSU President Lou Anna Simon.
Update, 5:28 p.m.: Here is Thomashow’s description of the assault she experienced and MSU’s investigation given during her victim impact statement at Nassar’s sentencing earlier this month:
One more thing
You depend on Slate for sharp, distinctive coverage of the latest developments in politics and culture. Now we need to ask for your support.
Our work is more urgent than ever and is reaching more readers—but online advertising revenues don’t fully cover our costs, and we don’t have print subscribers to help keep us afloat. So we need your help. If you think Slate’s work matters, become a Slate Plus member. You’ll get exclusive members-only content and a suite of great benefits—and you’ll help secure Slate’s future.Join Slate Plus