Nassar victims help unveil child abuse legislation

LANSING (AP) — Victims of imprisoned former sports doctor Larry Nassar helped unveil what they described Monday as a sweeping rewrite of Michigan laws related to childhood sexual abuse, saying the changes would ease the ability to stop abuse and bring justice to survivors.

Included in the bipartisan 10-bill package is a proposal to drastically lengthen the time limit for victims of sexual assault to sue. Survivors who were minors at the time of abuse now generally must file a civil lawsuit in state court by their 19th birthday, though it is longer if they sue under federal laws. Under the legislation, minor victims could sue up until their 48th birthday.

The measures were unveiled the same day the U.S. Education Department announced a new investigation of Michigan State University, where Nassar was employed for decades and which has been accused of mishandling complaints that enabled him to continue molesting patients under the guise of treatment. He also worked at USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians and is the sport’s governing body.

“We find ourselves at the top of a list we don’t want to be on, as we rank among the states leading the nation in providing protective environments for predators to thrive and the worst environment for survivors to find justice,” said Sterling Riethman, 25, a former collegiate diver and Nassar patient who was among more than 250 women and girls who spoke at his recent sentencing hearings.

She was joined Monday at the Capitol by legislators along with “sister survivors,” including 2012 Olympic gymnast and gold medalist Jordyn Wieber; Rachael Denhollander, who alerted The Indianapolis Star to Nassar in 2016; Larissa Boyce, who reported Nassar to Michigan State’s gymnastics coach in 1997; and Amanda Thomashow, whose 2014 complaint against Nassar resulted in the school clearing him.

“Do everything you can to support and protect these victims and others just like them. Make the necessary decision to ensure that this never happens again,” said Thomashow, 28, who added that Nassar’s survivors — who have sued the university, USA Gymnastics and others — “all deserve the same justice without a timeline for our grief or a deadline for our recovery.”