Michigan State University’s interim president said he thinks some of the survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse are “enjoying” their moment in the “spotlight.”
In comments to The Detroit News on Friday, highlighted on Tuesday by Deadspin, MSU interim President John Engler claimed some of Nassar’s victims are enjoying “the awards and recognition” in the wake of speaking out about their assaults.
“There are a lot of people who are touched by this, survivors who haven’t been in the spotlight,” Engler said. “In some ways they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who’ve been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition. And it’s ending. It’s almost done.”
MSU declined to comment on Engler’s remarks.
Nassar, who served as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics and for several MSU sports teams, was found guilty of sexually abusing over 260 young girls and women over the course of two decades. He received three concurrent sentences of 60 years, 40 to 125 years and 40 to 175 years in prison for child sexual abuse and child pornography.
Survivors and advocates against sexual abuse have criticized MSU, as well as USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee, for failing to prevent the abuse and in some cases knowingly allowing it to continue.
In November former MSU President Lou Anna Simon became the fourth official to face criminal charges related to covering up the sex abuse scandal.
The university has lost survivors’ trust in other ways too. Victims said they felt violated all over again when news broke in March 2018 that MSU paid a public relations company $517,343 to monitor and track their social media activity.
In June, Engler came under fire over a leaked email in which he claimed Rachael Denhollander received a “kickback” for being the first woman to publicly speak out against Nassar.
The university didn’t act on a letter from 120 self-proclaimed “sister survivors” who called for Engler’s dismissal in the wake of the email.
In December, Engler closed a $10 million healing fund originally set aside for counseling and other services for Nassar’s victims. The school redirected that money into an existing $500 million settlement divided among the 332 women who sued the school over Nassar’s abuses. The move would have left dozens of other accusers who were not part of the lawsuit unable to receive financial support for counseling and other mental health services.
MSU’s board of trustees voted last week to establish another fund for Nassar’s victims, but Engler said it might not be available to all of them.
This story has been updated to reflect that MSU declined to comment.