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Opinion | Denhollander: MSU, please stop lying about Nassar victims

Editor’s note: Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Dr. Larry Nassar of sexual assault, first posted these remarks Wednesday on Facebook. She was responding to an email Michigan State University special counsel Carol Viventi sent to MSU trustees calling another Nassar victim’s account of a meeting with Interim President John Engler (in which she said Engler offered $250,000 to settle her claims) “fake news”. Viventi had portrayed the meeting as an effort to “set up” Engler to get a larger lawsuit payout. On Wednesday, Viventi apologized, saying she didn’t mean to cause more pain for women Nassar assaulted. Denhollander gave Bridge permission to republish her remarks.

This is disgusting. No, this is not an apology. The problem isn't that we "felt bad" Ms. Viventi. The problem is that you LIED to the MSU Board.

1. Kaylee and her mom were never trying to keep the meeting "confidential". In fact, they had talked many times with me and other survivors about their desire to meet with President Engler to discuss the cultural problems at MSU. It was a desire many of us shared, and had expressed or requested directly to President Engler.

Related: Breaking down the Michigan bills intended to stop the next Larry Nassar 
MSU Interim President John Engler was dismissive of sexual assault claims as governor

2. They weren't afraid of being "in trouble,” which is why they came to me very soon after the meeting to ask if I had ever met with Engler and discussed a settlement.

3. "Amounts" WERE discussed in that meeting, even Emily Guerrant acknowledged a "philosophical discussion" about how much would be acceptable in a settlement. You may wish, in the future, to get your stories to at least align if you wish to continue such a ruse.

4. No, Engler was NOT trying to "follow the suggestions of those who wanted him to meet with survivors". In fact, those emails you referenced by Lt. Gov Calley - it was a request to meet with me. Engler never answered him. He then told other Senate leaders who requested this, (and) that he couldn't meet with me due to "litigation". If he had wanted to honor requests to meet with survivors, he could have, and would have, done so, instead of refusing to do so.

5. We, the survivors, are not "injuring the university.” YOU, by enabling the culture of sexual abuse, attacking survivors, and making the same character accusations as our abuser's defense attorneys (that we are lying to get money) damages MSU.

6. President Engler has, in fact, lied multiple times publicly about survivors, our motivations, the legislative package, and the state of affairs at MSU, including to the Senate Higher Ed committee. If you replay the video of that committee meeting, you will see some of those "facts" refuted by our state senators. I'm quite happy to refute the others.

7. Both President Engler and Bob Young have clear track records of handling sexual assault abhorrently in their professional capacities as governor (the jail situation is a notable example) and in judicial opinion. And yes, when you and Rob Young tell people that Kaylee and her mother are making “false and inaccurate statements” (lying) to “set up” MSU to “increase the cost of settlement”, you are, in fact, revictimizing. You are, in fact, part of the problem.

The worst part is, I think it’s very possible you, President Engler, and Bob Young truly believe that MSU is the victim here. Truly believe we are in this for the money. Truly believe we are making things up. Because your perspective is so warped and skewed that you can’t even recognize the deeply (e)mbedded cultural problems at MSU, you can’t acknowledge what an enabling culture looks like, and you really think money is what motivates sexual assault survivors to come forward.

And that is why you are unable to help fix the problem, and only compound it. Because you can’t even SEE the problem. And that is why all three of you, and every Board member who keeps supporting you and doesn’t force resignation, needs to go.

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