KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A survivor says the push by dozens of women who were sexually abused by Larry Nassar to go after the FBI in federal court for mishandling the investigation into the disgraced doctor could help protect others in the future.
Rachael Denhollander was one of the first survivors to go public with her accusations against Nassar in 2016. While relieved the doctor will spend the rest of his life in prison, she was disgusted when the Justice Department decided to not pursue criminal charges against the federal agents directly in charge of handling the case.
“It is betrayal after betrayal. And that’s part of what causes such severe damage to survivors of sexual abuse,” Denhollander said.
Denhollander believes it left her fellow survivors no other choice.
“The only option we have left is to make sure that there are consequences in place that motivate them to do it better than next time and in order to protect the next generation of victims that desperately need care and protection,” Denhollander said.
On Wednesday, 90 women and girls abused by Nassar filed federal tort claims against the FBI, seeking more than $1 billion in damages for its mishandling of the investigation. The lawyers for the complainants argued the bureau failed to stop the doctor when it first received allegations against him.
“What you’re looking for is, ‘Hey, you had a … legal duty to do something, and because you didn’t do that thing, people got hurt,” Denhollander explained. “You should’ve foreseen that people would’ve gotten hurt by this failure to do something.”
Denhollander, a Kalamazoo native, is not one of the complainants. She explained her abuse took place from 2000 to 2001, before the FBI had notice. But she still applauds the legal action and hopes it brings accountability to those she says broke the trust of those they protect and serve.
“I wish, more than anything, that our law enforcement had been motivated by care for the children that were being harmed by Larry (Nassar) and care for the survivors that came forward and offered to participate in an investigation. But they weren’t,” Denhollander said. “They haven’t had any accountability and they haven’t had any change or transparency out of this process.”
Under federal law, a government agency has six months to respond to the women’s claims. Depending on the FBI’s response, it may lead to civil lawsuits.