MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — More than 300 sexual abuse victims settled with Michigan State University for a record-breaking $500 million Tuesday, over allegations that it did not do enough to discipline its former doctor Lawrence Nassar.
Among those survivors was 2017 NCAA Champion gymnast Maggie Nichols, from Little Canada.
Nichols is not just a hometown hero, she is also one of 332 international heroes who shared their experience with the disgraced doctor.
In her victim impact statement from January 2018, Nichols said Nassar’s abuse started when she was 15 years old.
“…I trusted what he was doing at first, but then he started touching me in places I really didn’t think he should. He didn’t have gloves on and he didn’t tell me what he was doing. There was no one else in the room and I accepted what he was doing because I was told by adults that he was the best doctor and he could help relieve my pain…” Nichols said.
Years after physical abuse, the emotional scars are still there, and the half-billion dollar settlement aims to help the healing.
Most of the money — $425 million — will go towards the current victims.
“And there is $75 million set aside for any future claimants going forward within the next two years,” said Vince Finaldi, an attorney representing the gymnasts on this case.
Finaldi said Michigan State, where Nassar worked for more than 20 years, had the chance to act sooner, and did not.
Nichols called MSU out directly in her January testimony.
“They never told USA Gymnastics,” Nichols said. “If they had, I might never have met Larry Nassar and I would never have been abused by him.”
MSU insists it did not cover up any abuse. In a statement regarding the settlement, MSU’s special counsel Robert Young said, “Michigan State is pleased that we have been able to agree in principle on a settlement that is fair to the survivors of Nassar’s crimes. We appreciate the hard work both sides put into the mediation, and the efforts of the mediator, which achieved a result that is responsible and equitable.”
As this lawsuit closes, attention turns to the ones still pending against other organizations, and to the girls, who had to grow up too fast, but did so just in time to start a movement.
“One part of this process is over,” Finaldi said. “And the process is going from being a victim to being a survivor.”