UT responds to Nassar sentencing

January 31, 2018


A local gymnast joined more than 150 of her peers in directly confronting Larry Nassar, former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University sports medicine doctor, who sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment.


At his sentencing hearing, Isabelle Hutchins, a 2016 graduate of Rossford High School and current UT student — according to 13 ABC Toledo, looked her abuser in the eye and, like so many others, addressed the perpetrator she had once idolized.


According to Hutchins’ testimony, Nassar overlooked her broken leg while he molested her in the basement of his home.


"I have sleepless nights, especially recently because of this image of him…his treatments cause me to wake in a panic," Hutchins said. “You didn't heal me. You only hurt me.”


Nassar was sentenced Jan. 24 to 40-175 years in prison. 


Although Nassar will spend the rest of his life incarcerated, a sense of closure is missing and years of abuse that went unpunished continue to raise questions about how major athletic and academic institutions allowed predatory behavior to thrive.


According to ESPN’s Outside the Lines, MSU failed to turn over documents that outlined accusations of sexual assault by Nassar to federal Title IX investigators despite another ongoing investigation by campus police.


Two University of Toledo athletic department officials who have dedicated their professional lives to sports explained how they work to make sure nothing like Nassar’s abuse happens to the students they serve.


Brian Lutz, associate athletic director for compliance, stressed the importance of comprehension and awareness surrounding sexual assault. He described the athletic department’s “education and training” to “student athletes in the area of Title IX, sexual assault awareness and prevention.”


“We make our student athletes aware there are resources to them on our campus should something happen,” Lutz said. “We include as much information as we possibly can to make sure that they’re aware that this is an issue, we take it seriously and that we are doing what we can to look out for their safety and wellness.”


Brian Jones, associate athletic director for sports medicine, watched the trial unfold and asked himself if UT would have done anything differently.


“I don’t know,” Jones said. “We think we do things the right way.”


Sometimes, though, institutions and officials have a difficult time stopping abuse due to “societally ingrained issues,” Hillary Thorpe, UT’s sexual assault and domestic violence clinical counselor, said. “There is so much victim blaming that goes on.”


However, with an encouraging judge and a society in the midst of a movement where saying, “Me too” doesn’t leave a victim’s reputation in tatters, this is a “welcome change…from what most survivors have experienced in the legal system,” Thorpe said.


Repeated requests from The Independent Collegian for interviews with coaches and female athletes were declined by Paul Helgren, associate athletic director for communications.


“We have decided to leave the coaches and student-athletes out of the interviews, in fairness to them and the sensitive nature of this topic,” Helgren wrote in an email. “We think you will get all your questions about our policies and procedures answered by Mr. Jones and Mr. Lutz.” 


Counselors at the Center for Student Advocacy and Wellness will advise any student who does not want to discuss sexual misconduct with their peers.


“Any student who has experienced sexual assault… can receive services through our center,” Thorpe said. “I always encourage people to report if they feel comfortable doing so [because] that is the only way we are ever going to make progress.”




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