Photo credits: Brianne Randall-Gay & Kasey O’Day/Michigan Radio
CARE House forensic interviewer Brittany Bartkowiak shares her insights into “How He Got Away”
The first time that Dr. Larry Nassar sexually assaulted a child was in 1994, a full two decades before he would be caught by police. When he was charged in early 2016, after nearly 500 victims came forward, the world wondered how and why he was able to get away with so much for so long. Many of us are still wondering.
That is exactly what Michigan Radio’s new podcast Believed is all about. It goes beyond the media coverage we’ve already heard to help make sense of these questions that CARE House helps to answer every day.
The first podcast episode will introduce you to “Larry” – not the forlorn Dr. Larry Nassar you’ve seen in an orange jumpsuit, but the young, happy-go-lucky olympic trainer that parents felt lucky to take their kid to for treatment. The second episode, appropriately titled “How He Got Away,” details how Larry was able to use his power and community standing to trick not only his victims and their families – but police, as well.
Back in 2004, police investigated Larry after a survivor named Brianne (who was 17 at the time) came forward about his abuse during what was supposed to be a routine doctor’s appointment. Larry came prepared to his police interview with an alibi in the form of a PowerPoint explaining why the kinds of touches he did were “medically necessary” (which, they weren’t). The officer wasn’t a doctor, and with no one else to collaborate with, the PowerPoint was convincing enough for him to close his case. Larry was a doctor, after all.
As Brianne and her mother recall in the podcast what happened next, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a huge step missing from her investigation: a child advocacy center like CARE House.
CARE House services aren’t just for kids and families. CARE House also helps educate law enforcement and other multi-disciplinary team members on the dynamics of child sexual abuse, a complicated topic much outside of the realm of their day to day operations. Offenders use this lack of knowledge to their advantage. Believed provides a perfect example of how a well-meaning officer with lack of training on sexual abuse can let Larry Nassar walk out of the station as a free man.
We will never know for sure if having access to a place like CARE House would have made a difference in the Nassar investigation. But if I had to guess, I would say yes, absolutely.