It seems impossible to fully fathom the depths of Larry Nassar’s abuse. He has now been identified as having abused more than 300 individuals at various institutions throughout the United States, including USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. His abuse, which seemed to occur whenever an opportunity presented itself, was seemingly enabled at every almost every level by almost every person who encountered it.
There were outliers though. According to a lawsuit filed in a Michigan courtroom this morning, one of those outliers was Martha Ludwig, Michigan State University’s former field hockey coach. She was approached by one of her players, Erika Davis, who reported that Nassar had not only raped her but had also filmed the assault. An outraged Ludwig approached Nassar, demanding both to know what had happened and to receive a copy of the recorded assault. She was given the recording.
Ludwig’s outlier status ended up going badly. George Perles, then MSU’s Athletic Director (and the football coach), intervened on Nassar’s behalf, and all of the following things happened: Perles forced Ludwig to return the video, Perles forced Ludwig to resign, and Perles forced Ludwig to sign a non-disclosure agreement. If it seems worth asking what, exactly, Perles did to Nassar, given his treatment of Ludwig, the answer appears to have been absolutely nothing.
The story though gets worse.
- In the aftermath of Perles intervention, Davis approached the Michigan State University Police Department, where she attempted to report the assault. She was told that the MSUPD had no jurisdiction over the athletic department and that any complaints needed to be taken instead to Perles.
- When Davis explained that Perles had already dismissed the complaint, she was told that Perles was a powerful man, and that she needed to drop her complaints.
- Davis, who reportedly became pregnant as a result of the assault (and who reports subsequently having had a miscarriage), had her scholarship taken away in the aftermath of the attempted report.
- All of this happened in 1992.
If that last part seems like an outlier, that is because 1992 is two years earlier than most Nassar timelines begin, with his earliest abuse previously said to have begun in 1994, with the first reports of his abuse reaching officials overseeing his work in 1997. What this lawsuit alleges, in other words, is that officials knew of the threat Nassar posed in 1992, refused to do anything about it, and punished those who sought justice.
Surely though that is the end of the bad news? Nope!
Let’s start with MSU’s response to today’s lawsuit. MSU Spokeswoman Emily Guerrant insisted that, “While the protocols and procedures mentioned in this lawsuit do not reflect how sexual assault claims are handled at MSU, we are taking the allegations very seriously and looking into the situation.” Here is additional information about how sexual assault claims involving MSU are handled. Jim Dunlap, the MSUPD’s current Police Chief, asserted that the lawsuit’s claims were “nonsense” because there is no way that MSUPD would have refused to investigate claims just because they involved the institution’s Athletic Department. Here is additional information about how sexual assaults claims involving MSU’s Athletic Department are handled.
As for Perles, he retired in 1992, shortly after his interactions with Davis and Ludwig. But not one to go quietly, Perles has kept busy in retirement and is currently serving as a member of MSU’s Board of Trustees, a position he has held since 2007. He has been on the Board for the entirety of its attempts to address Nassar’s abuse. In early 2018, Perles and other Trustees apologized to Nassar’s victims, insisting the Board of Trustees would protect both victims and the institution and declared that the Trustees were “sorry for the trouble we’ve caused these poor women.” It is currently unclear whether Davis was one of the poor women mentioned.
Deadspin has additional details culled from the lawsuit itself. It is difficult reading.