MSU Professor designs shirts to raise money and awareness for survivors of sexual abuse

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There’s no question that the Larry Nassar scandal sent shock waves through our community, affecting more than just Michigan State University and the patients Nassar treated there.

In fact, voices of the more than 250 women who described details of Nassar’s abuse during his sentencing hearings and the “Me Too” movement, not only inspired one MSU professor to come forward for the first time about the abuse he suffered, but also prompted him to start a fundraiser in an effort to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Through this effort, a picture of the historic Ingham County Courthouse, centered in an East Lansing University seal on a grey t-shirt, is serving as a fashion statement to raise money and awareness for survivors of sexual abuse.

Journalism professor Dr. Brendan Watson is the brains behind the design.

“I, myself am a victim, or survivor of childhood sexual abuse and with the “Me Too” movement going on and just kind of the national conversation we’re having about the issue, it was kind of a difficult time for me and honestly I had not even told my wife or any of my family that I was struggling with this,” Dr. Watson said.

Instead of being angry or upset about his situation, Watson said he wanted to do something positive that helps to change the culture on MSU’s campus and our community as a whole, so he designed the shirt in a certain way to help with that.

“We call it East Lansing University and the idea is that, that’s always going to be a university here in East Lansing but it needs to be a different type of campus going forward,” Watson said. “One that listens to problems and is more inclusive to this community, protects its students, its faculty, as well as community members.”

The shirt also celebrates the voices of Nassar survivors who gave powerful victim impact statements during the former doctor’s sentencing hearing at the Ingham County Courthouse. The Latin motto: “Courage, truth and justice” helps to represent that.

Watson said with these issues in the national spotlight and the failures of campus institutions, the need for services for victims of sexual violence in our community have increased.

In order to help the local organizations that offer those services, Watson is donating the money raised through the shirt sales to two local organizations: <a href=”https://www.smalltalkcac.org/”>Small Talk</a> and<a href=”http://www.eveinc.org/”> End Violent Encounters</a>, which is better known as EVE.

Both organizations are dedicated to helping those affected by sexual abuse in our community.

“We need, as a community, to support the work they’re doing and realize it’s a really important resource for those who are experiencing or have experienced sexual violence in the past,” Watson said.

Small Talk is a children’s assessment center in Lansing that provides a comfortable, child friendly place where children who have been impacted by sexual or physical abuse, can receive support, counseling, and feel empowered to heal.

EVE provides services to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence while empowering the community through education and awareness.

For those who would like to contribute to this fundraiser, there are two shirt options to choose from. You can buy a <a href=”http://spartansact.com/”>short sleeve shirt</a> at the price of $15 or a <a href=”http://spartansact.com/”>long sleeve shirt</a> for $20.

Sales end on Sunday, March 18<sup>th</sup>, just before midnight. Click<a href=”http://spartansact.com/”> here</a> for more information.

100 percent of the money raised through the sale of the first 20 shirts will be divided between Small Talk and EVE.  Watson said the number 20 represents the number of years it took MSU to listen to victims of Nassar.

The former doctor worked for the university for more than two decades and during his time there, dozens of women and girls said they told coaches, trainers, and MSU staff about his abuse, but no one listened.

Because Small Talk and EVE rely on grants and donations, both of them said they’re thankful for this effort.

Alex Brace, executive director of Small Talk, said the non-profit appreciates Dr. Watson’s efforts as well as all those who have contributed to the fundraiser.

“This is a crime of secrecy and as a community we can no longer afford to remain silent,” Brace said. “Dr. Watson’s campaign brings awareness to the epidemic of sexual abuse and can be the beginning of conversations that our public needs to be involved in. This is the kind of action we need in our community to make lasting change.”

Erin Roberts, executive director of EVE, said whenever the organization can grow its services to meet the need in our community, it’s very beneficial.

“Individual donations like this create opportunity for us to meet the survivors needs as the survivor tells us, versus grant funds which often, are really more curtailed to certain aspects of our services,” Roberts said. “When we feel the pain in our community, we work together to heal but we also mobilize to make sure that we can prevent and so I think he’s trying to do both of those.”

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