In 2016, the Indianapolis Star published an investigative piece about sexual abuse within USA Gymnastics. That same day, Rachel Denhollander contacted the newspaper and told them about how gymnastics dcotor, Larry Nassar, abused her.
Marisa Kwiatkowski was one of the reporters who broke the stories about USA Gymnastics and Larry Nassar with her colleagues, Tim Evans and Mark Alesia, at the Indianapolis Star. She is going to be speaking about this investigation at Grand Valley State University on Monday, March 26.
Kwiatkowski is a journalist who got her start in West Michigan, graduating from Grand Valley State University in 2005 and going on to work at the Grand Haven Tribune.
Following the Indy Star's first story about USA Gymnastics, they then published their first investigation into Larry Nassar. When that story was first published in September 2016, three survivors had shared their stories. Kwiatkowski said within a few weeks, they had heard from more than 20 survivors.
"I don't think that we had a concept of how significant his abuse was, really, until after the piece came out about him," she said.
That reporting subsequently led to the criminal charges brought against Nassar, and his sentencing for the abuse of more than 250 women and girls as well as possession of child pornography. Nassar was sentenced three separate times: 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges, 40 to 175 years in state prison on sexual assault charges in Ingham County and 40 to 125 years in prison for sexual assault charges in Eaton County.
But Kwiatkowski said that Nassar is emblematic of a bigger structure.
"He is a part of a broader system," she said. "And we have been examining the failures in that system for more than two years now."
Kwiatkowski said that the outcome of the investigation showed the impact that people using their voices can have on the community.
"It's because so many survivors came forward and shared their stories that the president of USA Gymnastics, that the board of directors resigned, that there's a new federal law that requires mandatory reporting," she said. "So hopefully, not just the sport of Gymnastics, but children in other sports as well are safer because of those people sharing their voices."
Moving forward, Kwiatkowski said she and her colleagues are continuing to investigate USA Gymnastics.
The event on Monday is going to be a Q&A style, and there will be an opportunity for audience members to ask questions.
"For me, it'll be an interesting intersection of my past and my present," she said. "I'm really looking forward to being back at Grand Valley."
The event starts at 6 p.m. and is going to be in the Charles W. Loosemore Auditorium on Grand Valley's downtown Grand Rapids campus. It is free and open to the public.
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