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Larry Nassar’s Victims Talk About the Settlement Process: Broadsheet

June 27, 2019, 7:51 AM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Democratic presidential contenders have their first debate, a House committee votes to subpoena Kellyanne Conway, and we learn about what happens to victims of sexual abuse after the settlements have been levied.

A note from Kristen: First, a huge thank you to the many readers who wrote in to let me know that in yesterday’s essay, rather than “preferred pronouns” I should simply have said “pronouns.” As one of you put it: “Using the word ‘preferred’ can unintentionally imply that usage is optional, or that the choice is superficial… rather than an essential expression/recognition of identity.” These are the moments when I’m especially thankful to have such a thoughtful group of subscribers! I’ll follow up with more of your responses when I’m back from vacation in two weeks. In the meantime, I leave you in the capable hands of Claire and Emma. Have a glorious Thursday.


What's a girl's life worth? For those of us who followed the heartbreaking and infuriating case of disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar, his conviction and MSU's agreement to pay a $500 million settlement to victims may have felt like the end of the story. But to the survivors of Nassar's abuse who were entitled to a portion of that settlement, it was more like the beginning of a new and uniquely painful chapter.

For a new story published on Fortune this morning, writer Mary Pilon spent 18 months talking to dozens of Nassar survivors about their experiences with the settlement. As Mary describes it, in a process that "involves an awkward combination of apologetic recognition, dispassionate mathematics, and, often, a torturous recounting of abuse, hundreds of women are learning what their suffering was 'worth' in dollar terms."

Despite the impossibility of attaching a dollar value to the trauma these women have experienced—and of ranking their pain against that of their fellow survivors—the money has a very real purpose: it can provide for therapy and other medical bills, make up for lost wages, serve as an acknowledgement of suffering, and penalize those who allowed the crimes to occur.

Mary's story takes us inside this secretive procedure—and shines a light on the ways in which it remains deeply imperfect and ripe for reform. That's a process the Nassar survivors have already begun—in part simply by talking about it. Unlike many women in abuse cases, they have not been forced to sign NDAs.

Kenneth Feinberg, who's worked on dispensing settlements to 9/11 victims among others, tells Mary that the default to mandatory silence agreements is a mistake:

"'I think it’s very, very important that the institution agree to confidentiality,' he says. 'But if the individual victim wants to [speak out], I think that’s to be encouraged.' That represents a shift in the power balance, from the institution to the survivor."

I hope you'll take the time to read Mary's story in full: Fortune

Kristen Bellstrom


 Debate debrief. Given Sen. Elizabeth Warren's momentum in the race for Democrats' 2020 bid, she faced high expectations in the Dems' first debate last night, and she largely met them. Meanwhile, Sen. Amy Klobuchar landed a bit of a zinger when she reminded Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who'd touted his pro-choice cred, that "there’s three women up here that have fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose." The second slate of Democratic 2020 hopefuls debate tonight.

Keeping after Conway. The House Oversight and Reform Committee’s House panel has voted to subpoena Kellyanne Conway for her testimony after she failed to show up at hearing where, according to the NYT, "a special counsel told the committee she should be fired from the White House for her 'egregious, repeated, and very public violations' of federal ethics law." New York Times

Instigating an investigation?  Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Mitt Romney of Utah have broken with the bulk of their GOP colleagues to say that E. Jean Carroll's rape allegation against President Trump should be investigated. CNN

No, Megan won't go. Speaking of the president...he used Twitter yesterday to criticize Team USA co-captain Megan Rapinoe, who previously said that she's "not going to the f---ing White House" if her soccer team wins the World Cup. Rapinoe, a longtime Trump critic, was one of the few white players to join Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when he and others protested racism and police violence by taking a knee during the national anthem at games. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Gillian Tans, No. 11 on Fortune's MPW International list, has moved from CEO of Booking.com to chair in a management shake-up.


Soccer is hot. In other World Cup updates, the heat is—literally—on in France, where temperatures may climb above 104F this week. Here's an update on today's match schedule—and how FIFA plans to cope with the heatwave: Fortune

 The new face of criminal justice reform. Vox argues that progressive prosecutor Tiffany Cabán, who seems poised to win in the NYC Democratic primary in the Queens district attorney race, is more than a local story. Why? Well, Queens has more people than 15 states and D.C. combined—and the fact that her election would signal a step forward on criminal justice reform, given the amount of power wielded by DAs and other prosecutors.  Vox

Kome on, Kim. Kim Kardashian West stirred up major drama in Japan by naming her new line of shapewear Kimono, prompting some to accuse her of disrespecting the traditional outfit. Klueless kultural appropriation—or kanny marketing move? The Guardian

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