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The language of harm: what the Nassar victim impact statements reveal about abuse and accountability

Abrams, Jamie and Potts, Amanda ORCID: 2020. The language of harm: what the Nassar victim impact statements reveal about abuse and accountability. Presented at: Law and Society Association Annual Meeting (LSA 2020), Virtual, 27-31 May 2020.

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This paper examines more than 140 Victim Impact Statements that were delivered to the court in the Larry Nassar criminal proceeding. Larry Nassar was a doctor for the United States Gymnastics Association (USGA) and an employee of Michigan State University treating elite athletes, predominantly gymnasts. Nassar plead guilty to child pornography and first-degree criminal sexual charges in Michigan. His sentencing received worldwide attention as over 200 victims delivered impact statements describing the hurt and betrayal of his conduct. Using corpus-based discourse analysis, this paper examines the complex strategies that the victims deployed to describe who Nassar was (a doctor, a monster, a friend), what he did (abuse, assault, pedophilia, 'treatments'), and the harms that they suffered (pain, hurt, betrayal). It concludes by recommending more robust and holistic approaches to the naming and framing of sexual assault, more proactive policy uses of Victim Impact Statements to meet victim needs in law and policy reforms, and greater law reform efforts to prevent systemic institutional sexual assault such as what occurred at Michigan State and within the USGA.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: In Press
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
K Law > KF United States Federal Law
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2022 10:25

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