Before a Michigan judge on Wednesday sentenced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar to up to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting more than 140 young women, state Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis honored the role of investigative reporting in the case.
“It shouldn’t take investigative journalists to expose predators,” Povilaitis, whose office prosecuted the case, said in her closing argument. “But thank god we have these journalists, and that they exposed this truth and that they continue to cover this story. Thank god Rachael Denhollander made that first contact with the reporter and decided to allow them to publish her name.”
“We, as a society, need investigative journalists more than ever,” she said later. “What finally started this reckoning and ended this decades-long cycle of abuse was investigative reporting.”
Without The Indianapolis Star’s initial 2016 investigation into USA Gymnastics, she continued, “he would still be practicing medicine, treating athletes and abusing kids,” pointing at Nassar.
After reading the Star’s investigation, former gymnast Rachael Denhollander contacted the reporters and came forward with her account, the first public accusation of Nassar’s abuse, in a story published in September 2016.
She was the last woman to read a victim impact statement in Nassar’s sentencing hearing on Wednesday.
Reporters, particularly female reporters, have been instrumental in lifting the lid on serial sexual predation involving prominent men and exposing the institutions and systems that enabled their abusive behavior to go on.
In October, New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke open years of sexual misconduct involving Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which catalyzed what has now become known as the #MeToo movement.
Read more on Nassar’s sentencing here.