In 2004, then 17-year-old Brianne Randall-Gay reported Larry Nassar — who at the time was a sports medicine doctor at Michigan State University — to a local police department. He had molested her during a medical treatment, she said. The Michigan police department dismissed her allegations of abuse. On Thursday, a week after Nassar received a 175-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting young girls and women, the Meridian Township Police Department publicly apologized to Randall-Gay for not believing her.
"We knew that we had to apologize to the public and apologize to Brianne again," Meridian Township Police Chief Dave Hall said. "I think I could apologize every day for the rest of my life and first of all it would be truly meant."
Michigan NPR reporter (and former Bustle writer) Cheyna Roth said that Hall announced several initiatives, including more training, reviewing all criminal sexual conduct reports from the past 18 years, and community outreach to help children understand criminal sexual conduct and how to report it to the appropriate authorities.
Randall-Gay appeared at the press conference via video call. "I immediately broke down as they apologized," she said. "This was a phone call I waited 14 years for."
A police report from 2004, which the police department made public on Wednesday, included a statement from Randall-Gay that alleged Nassar was conducting a scoliosis examination when he started touching her inappropriately. However, police apparently did not send the case to prosecutors because they believed Nassar's explanation. He claimed that massaging Randall-Gay's breasts and attempting to put his fingers in her vagina constituted "a medical technique known as Sacrotuberous Ligament Release."
Nassar reportedly provided police with a PowerPoint presentation on this medical technique, which they accepted. Randall-Day addressed this when she testified at Nassar's sentencing hearing last week; she was one of more than 100 girls and women who publicly spoke out against Nassar when Judge Rosemarie Aquilina opened the floor to any survivors who wanted to speak.
"You had audacity to tell [police] I misunderstood the treatment because I was not comfortable with my body," Randall-Day said to Nassar at the hearing. "Sadly, they took your word instead of mine."
"I am here to tell you I wasn't afraid of you then, and I'm sure as hell not afraid of you now," Randall-Gay added.
The Meridian Township Police Department paid for Randall-Gay's travel costs to and from Nassar's hearing, CNN reported.
Prior to Thursdsay's press conference, Meridian Township Manager Frank Walsh — who did not occupy this position when Randall-Gay first made her accusations — told NBC News that he believed a public apology was necessary.
"We were wrong in 2004," Walsh told NBC News. "We were deceived by Nassar ... and when you do something wrong you admit it and you make it better. We let her down, and we won't do it again."
Walsh added that the officer who took the report back in 2004 did not face disciplinary consequences for dismissing Randall-Gay's allegations, but that he did privately apologize to her. While Randall-Gay was glad to receive the apology, she told NBC News that it was "not enough," and that the consequences of not believing her were dire:
I believe it's possible that his abuse could have been stopped 14 years ago. And that many young women and girls would not have been victimized by him. It felt good to hear from them and their kindness has been therapeutic for me. However, I still have a lot of anger towards the situation.
Nassar pleaded guilty last week to 10 counts of sexual assault under the guise of medical treatment. Randall-Gay's account of what took place is haunting, especially because it has since come to light that Nassar used so-called medical explanations for nearly two decades to justify "treatments" that made numerous girls and women uncomfortable and afraid.
Police Chief David Hall — who served as Meridian Township's interim police chief back in 2004 — pointed out that Nassar had been a respected doctor, making it difficult for the investigator to realize that he was lying about his actions.
But this respected standing, which grew even further when he became the USA Gymnastics national team doctor, also meant that many of the girls and women he abused either didn't realize he had abused them or didn't want to report his abuse because of his powerful position.