MSU president thanks 'courageous' women for sharing details of sexual assault

Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon released a two-minute video Wednesday evening in which she thanked the women who have accused former athletic department doctor Larry Nassar and members of the school's football team of sexual assault for sharing details of those events.

Simon also thanked the university community for its patience while the school and police investigate the various charges and allegations. She announced a new website that will provide more information and frequent updates about the ongoing investigations.

"This is a difficult time and it's been troubling for many, particularly for Spartans," she said in the video. "The seriousness of the charges requires the most deliberate investigations possible. So I thank the Spartan community for your patience as we work with authorities to ensure justice is fully served. Most of all I want to thank each and every individual who has come forward to share details of personally traumatic events. This is truly a courageous act."

Michigan State is in the midst of multiple internal, Title IX and police investigations related to the sexual assault allegations. The school has already paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to outside legal firms who are conducting reviews of how accusations were handled by the school and the athletic department.

Nassar, a former team doctor for several sports at the school and the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, has been charged with more than two dozen counts of first-degree criminal sexual assault, among other crimes. More than 100 women have contacted university police, many claiming that Nassar penetrated them with un-gloved fingers while he was supposed to be treating them for injuries. He and several members of the university are also being sued in civil lawsuits related to the same allegations by more than 90 women.

Nassar and his attorneys have denied any wrongdoing, saying that the vaginal penetration is part of a legitimate medical procedure. He has also been charged with possessing tens of thousands of child pornography images and has been in federal custody since December. His next court date for the criminal sexual assault charges is Friday.

Simon last addressed the investigation of Nassar at a trustees meeting in April. She said then that "it is virtually impossible to stop a determined sexual predator and pedophile." Several of the women who have spoken up about their interactions with the former doctor rebuked Simon for minimizing the affect that others can have in stopping serial sexual predators.

Rachel Denhollander, one of the first women to come forward and publicly accuse Nassar of assault, wrote an open letter to Simon because she said she was concerned about the impact of Simon's statement.

"Your words matter," Denhollander wrote. "...(W)hat you have just told your Trustees, your officials, your school, and the watching world, is that it ultimately doesn't much matter what someone does. Ultimately, officials who are willfully indifferent to abusers in their midst can wash their hands and walk away, because men like Nassar are 'virtually impossible to catch.' Except that's not true. It has never been true."

In a separate case, three unnamed football players and one staff member have been suspended from the program since Feb. 10 while the Ingham county prosecutor decides if she will charge them with crimes related to an incident that took place on campus in January. The university police have requested three arrest warrants for sexual conduct, and a fourth related to interference during their investigation. Curtis Blackwell, the team's director of college advancement and performance, has been suspended since Feb. 10, but the university has declined to say if Blackwell is the staff member who is part of the investigation.

A fourth Michigan State football player, Auston Robertson, was dismissed from the team and charged with third-degree sexual assault in late April for a separate incident. The alleged attack took place in early April.

Along with the promise of providing updates on the investigations, the new website launched this week provides a place for people to report sexual assaults and lists resources offered by the university for those in need.