Wednesday is the two-year anniversary of the Indianapolis Star publishing the first allegations of sexual abuse against former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar, and even as he sits in prison serving multiple de-facto life sentences, new details about his serial sexual abuse of patients and the way institutions enabled him for decades continue to emerge.
Erika Davis, a former field hockey player at Michigan State University, alleges that Nassar drugged and raped her during a medical appointment back in 1992, when she was only 17 years old. According to a new federal lawsuit, the rape — which was reportedly video taped — impregnated her, though she later suffered a miscarriage.
The lawsuit says that George Perles — the school’s athletics director in 1992, and a current MSU trustee — knew about the allegations and the existence of a video, but intervened to keep them quiet.
Davis also says she went to the MSU Police Department with two friends in October 1992, but “the detective explicitly told them that he was powerless to investigate anything that takes place [in] the athletic department and to go to the athletic department.”
This lawsuit is significant for many reasons. Though his countless acts of sexual assault have been well documented, this is the first time someone has accused Nassar of rape through intercourse; most of Nassar’s assaults were through digital vaginal penetration.
And while it is not the earliest known incident of Nassar’s sexual abuse — Sarah Klein is thought to be the first victim, when he began abusing her in the late 1980s — it is the earliest instance of someone reporting the abuse to MSU officials. Previously, it was believed that former gymnastics head coach Kathy Klages was the first MSU employee to know about the abuse, in 1997.
“Michigan State University could have prevented hundreds of young girls and women from being sexually assaulted by Defendant Nassar had they only acted appropriately, decently and lawfully in 1992,” the lawsuit says.
Accordingly, the suit also broadens the scope of the cover up beyond the parameters previously in place.
In 1992, Davis’s field hockey coach, Martha Ludwig, recommended that she see Nassar after she injured her knee in a spring practice. Nassar, who was a graduate student at the university at the time, said he was doing a flexibility study, and needed athlete participants. (Klein’s lawsuit, which was filed in 2017, also mentions a flexibility study.)
During her first appointment with Nassar, he assaulted Davis under the guise of a breast exam. In her second appointment, he gave her crushed up pills, which made her woozy. When she regained her presence of mind, he was raping her. The lawsuit says both assaults were videotaped.
Immediately after the rape, Davis told two friends and Coach Ludwig. Ludwig allegedly confronted Nassar in his office in May 1992 and demanded the video. But then Perles stepped in.
“(Perles) intervened and the charges were dropped against the coach, but she was forced to return the video, resign and sign a non-disclosure agreement,” according to the court documents. “Upon information and belief, Coach Martha made and retained a copy of the videotape.”
When Davis went to police in October, they told her that “George Perles is a ‘powerful man,’ and she should just drop it.”
According to the lawsuit, it’s believed that Ludwig made copies of the video before giving them back to Perles, though she had not yet released a statement. Ludwig parted ways with the university soon after the incident, and Davis’s NCAA scholarship was revoked soon after the report as well.
It’s worth remembering in light of the new allegations: the entire MSU Board of Trustees, including Perles, has remained in place throughout the fallout from the Nassar scandal. Many have publicly given statements blaming victims.