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$500M Sexual Assault Settlement Reached by Michigan State Univ. Over Larry Nassar Abuse

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Michigan State University (MSU) has agreed to pay $500 million in settlements for women and girls who were sexually abused by Larry Nassar, a former assistant professor and USA Gymnastics doctor who worked for the school. 

The sexual assault settlement was announced by the University in a press release issued on May 16, indicating that the agreement will resolve lawsuits brought by 332 plaintiffs who were abused by Larry Nassar over the course of decades.

The global agreement includes $425 million for current plaintiffs, with another $75 million set aside in a trust fund for any future victims of Larry Nassar who come forward. The settlement will not include any confidentiality clause or non-disclosure agreements.

The settlement only applies to claims against MSU, and current and former employees. USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic Committee and other defendants are unaffected by the settlement, and still face a number of lawsuits for failing to protect the aspiring athletes.

The MSU Board of Trustees agreed to the settlement in principle during a May 15 conference call.

According to testimony presented by more than 150 women and girls, Nassar sexually molested young female gymnasts during medical examinations since at least the early 1990s, in his role as a team physician and assistant professor at MSU, and as a USA Gymnastics Medical Coordinator.

Many of the women, who call themselves the Sister Survivors, indicate that they told MSU staff, USA Gymnastics officials and others about Nassar’s behavior, but were discouraged from reporting the incidents. Some testimony even suggested that MSU officials told the survivors that they simply did not know the difference between sexual assault and a medical examination. However, after victims began to step forward publicly, the abuse finally got over-due attention and Nassar was arrested, tried, and found guilty on multiple charges.

Nassar will spend the rest of his life in jail, having received a federal sentence of 60 years on child pornography charges. He has also received two additional sentences; including one for 40 to 175 years, and another of 40 to 125 years from verdicts in two Michigan courts.

Victims of Nassar say they welcome the settlement, but say they were disappointed that the agreement did not include policy changes at MSU to prevent an incident like this from occurring in the future. The victims say the university needs systemic changes to be able to adequately protect innocent victims from sexual predators like Nassar who may be employed by the university.

MSU officials say they are working on such changes, even though they are not a part of the settlement.

“The entire MSU community has worked hard at changes to make sure a monster like Larry Nassar could never hide again on our campus,” MSU Interim President John Engler said in a separate statement. “We also are working every day to prevent sexual misconduct on our campus and have a community that respects women and all who work or visit here.”

The settlement comes as details continue to emerge about another potential case of widespread student sexual assault at University of Southern California (USC), where reports indicate that a gynecologist employed at the student health center may have engaged in inappropriate behavior for decades.

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