Securing Justice for the Survivors of Dr. Larry Nassar

A scale and gavel rest on a desk.

In 2017, Michigan and the nation reeled from the revelations that Dr. Larry Nassar had sexually assaulted hundreds of women during his time at Michigan State University. Kelley Cawthorne worked with a coalition of survivors, attorneys, and other stakeholders to pass legislation in 2018 seeking accountability for his atrocities.

“[Rachel Denhollander] told us what she had discovered in research and found we were one of the worst states of the nation,” said former Michigan State Sen. Margaret O’Brien, the lead sponsor on the package. “The charge was laid out that we had to do something.”

In order to hold people and institutions accountable, changes had to be made to the statute of limitations for criminal sexual conduct, both criminally and civilly, creating a window for retroactive lawsuits to be filed against responsible parties. Additionally, to ensure such terrible events would never happen again, the package also included statutory changes to expand the list of people required to report cases of child abuse and neglect, improve recordkeeping and accountability related to medical procedures, and eliminate government immunity in civil cases.

Overcoming high profile and intense opposition, Kelley Cawthorne, along with the coalition we developed, was instrumental in securing over a $500 million settlement to the survivors, as well as strengthening Michigan’s antiquated criminal sexual conduct statutes. By spearheading the coalition’s lobbying efforts, we were key to gaining progress in legislative efforts to secure justice for survivors. 

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