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Is Michigan State’s Sexual Assault Scandal an Example of Gender Bias?

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As of the writing of this blog, 26 women are suing MSU and its former employee Larry Nassar.  That number is certain to grow in the coming days and weeks.  The complaints allege that Nassar assaulted girls and young women under the guise of medical treatment, and did so for two decades while MSU looked the other way.  The allegations are similar in many ways to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.  But while the Penn State cover-up was a mainstay in national news coverage for weeks, MSU’s story has up to now received little national attention.  Why is that?

I’m not a social scientist, but I have been working with People long enough to know that gender bias is playing a role here.  The PSU scandal involved male victims and a high-profile football program; at MSU the plaintiffs are females participating in a non-revenue-generating sport.  Regrettably, a large portion of our society has a tendency to normalize and rationalize violence and other forms of discrimination against women.  In 2015, a federal investigation found MSU to be guilty of improperly handling sexual assaults, causing it to be a hostile environment for women on campus.  This information barely made the news.

How do we change this atmosphere of indifference to violence against women?  By taking action.  The historic Women’s March last month was a wonderful starting point for raising awareness of this issue.  But the momentum has to continue.  We have to hold perpetrators and those who cover up for them accountable if we are ever going to have a truly fair society.