(NEW YORK) — The mothers of athletes who accused sports doctor Larry Nassar of sexual assault are demanding systemic changes take place to prevent future abuses, with one of them telling ABC News, “It’s our daughters today, who would it be tomorrow?”
“We so trusted this man, my child, Sterling, would not have been there … if we didn’t implicitly trust him,” Kyle Keiser, the mother of Sterling Riethman, one of Nassar’s former patients who accused him of sexual misconduct in a civil suit, told ABC News.
“He was maniacally genius in the way he groomed me as a parent and my daughter as a victim,” Keiser said, adding that the trust “was built over years.”
Nassar, a former Michigan State University (MSU) and USA Gymnastics doctor, was sentenced to 60 years in prison earlier this month after pleading guilty to federal child pornography charges.
Nassar also pleaded guilty last month to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving girls who were 15 years old or younger in Ingham County, Michigan, as well as three other counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Eaton County, Michigan. In addition, he has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 125 women and girls in civil lawsuits.
Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas have publicly said they were abused by the disgraced doctor.
Sterling Riethman has joined a lawsuit alleging that MSU had received complaints as far back as 2000 and failed to investigate properly. Keiser told ABC News that she believes MSU, the institution that housed Nassar’s practice for decades, failed to protect young athletes from the his widespread abuse.
“If MSU had listened to the reports that started in 1996, my child would not have been a patient, and then she would not have been a victim,” Keiser said. “How many other dozens of young women are in that same situation?”
She added that if a thorough investigation had been launched when the first allegations emerged against Nassar, scores of victims could have been protected, telling ABC News, “It could have been stopped.”
Jason Cody, a spokesperson for MSU said in a statement this November that the university “unequivocally denies” the accusation that the university “is engaged in a ‘cover up of misconduct by university administrators.'”
“Moreover, MSU has consistently promised if it were to find any employee knew of and acquiesced in Nassar’s misconduct, the university would immediately report it to law enforcement,” Cody added. “As for the call for an independent investigation, the FBI and MSU Police Department conducted a joint investigation earlier this year to determine whether any university employee other than Nassar engaged in criminal conduct. The results of that investigation were sent to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan. We have no reason to believe that any criminal conduct was found.”
The statement continued: “Michigan State University continues to be shocked and appalled by Larry Nassar’s now-admitted criminal conduct. Any suggestion that the university covered up this conduct is simply false.”
Keiser said she and her daughter are speaking out now in order to create “change” and protect future athletes.
“Sterling said something the other day,” Keiser told ABC News. “She said, ‘You know, if something horrible is going to happen to me, and I do nothing, I’m only a victim, but if it creates change, and we can make this better, then it served a purpose.'”
Keiser added that as a mother, it was extremely difficult for her to watch what her daughter went through.
“I raised Sterling to be a strong, independent, smart, young woman,” Keiser said. “And it’s not in a strong, independent girl’s vocabulary to say that, ‘I’m a victim.’
“All of a sudden, she is put in a place of vulnerability, and she doesn’t know who she is,” she added. “How do you all of a sudden say that you are a sex assault victim? How do you find those words?”
Keiser said they are fighting to “change the system so that young girls aren’t even exposed to this.”
“It makes me sad that it didn’t have to happen. It makes me sad that there are over 150 Sterlings,” Keiser added. “Who hasn’t come forward? Who doesn’t have the strength to come forward?”
‘We can’t keep putting a Band-Aid on an artery bleed’
Lisa Lorincz, the mother of Kaylee Lorincz, who was also a former patient of Nassar’s and accused him of sexual assault in the Ingham County criminal case Nassar pleaded guilty to last month, echoed Keiser’s sentiments.
Lorincz is also suing MSU, saying she believes MSU and the USA Gymnastics organizations must have been aware of some allegations of misconduct against Nassar.
“When you have an institution as large as they are, it’s ridiculous to think that people didn’t know,” Lorincz told ABC News.
USA Gymnastics did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment Friday, but the organization has previously said in a statement that, “USA Gymnastics is very sorry that any athlete was harmed by Larry Nassar. Upon first learning of athlete concerns about Nassar in 2015, USA Gymnastics reported him to the FBI and relieved him of any involvement with USA Gymnastics.”
The statement continued: “Federal and state authorities ultimately charged Nassar with multiple crimes, leading to his incarceration and now his admission of guilt to charges of criminal sexual conduct. We note that affected women contacted by Michigan prosecutors supported resolution by plea, and USA Gymnastics also views Nassar’s guilty plea as an important acknowledgment of his appalling and devious conduct that permits punishment without further victimization of survivors.”
Shortly after Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney came forward with her allegations of assault, USA Gymnastics issued another statement saying, “We are strengthening and enhancing our policies and procedures regarding abuse, as well as expanding our educational efforts to increase awareness of signs to watch for and reporting suspicions of abuse, including the obligation to immediately report. USA Gymnastics, its members and community are committed to working together to keep our athletes as safe as possible.”
Lorincz told ABC News she is not looking for an apology from Nassar.
“I don’t want anything from him,” she said. “I just want to see Kaylee heal.”
While she maintains that an apology “wouldn’t do any good,” Lorincz told ABC News that going forward, one thing she does hope to see is for “things to change.”
“I would also like to see anybody who knew,” Lorincz said. “If we’re going to really make change for the future, there has be consequences for people who knew and didn’t report, or worse, covered it up.”
“We can’t keep putting a Band-Aid on an artery bleed, and trying to deal with it after the fact,” she added.
Since going public with her family’s heartbreak, Lorincz said they have been exposed to what she described as “victim blaming.”
“If you could find a way to point the finger at the gymnast, or the poor parenting skills, then you can justify in your mind that this won’t happen to your child,” she said in response.
“I have news for everybody, that unless things change, this can happen to their child, because no one is being held accountable,” she added. “It’s our daughters today, who would it be tomorrow?”
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