Meet the Journalist who is standing up for victims of sexual assault: Emily Lawler

In the wake of movements like #Timesup and #MeToo, journalist Emily Lawler stands up to sexual assault by revealing the truth.

 

Lawler speaking to students Southern Methodist University about her coverage of Nassar. Photo by Cassidy Najarian. 

 

Lawler, now a journalist for Mlive, graduated from Michigan State University in 2011. After her graduation, she began working for Mlive in 2014. During her time at Mlive, Olympic gymnasts Rachel Denhollander and came forward in an article from Indystar, accusing the MSU physician, Larry Nassar, of sexual assault. For Lawler, the case was personal.

“This is disturbing content and its disturbing to see it happen somewhere you are close to,” Lawler said. “I’m trying to pinpoint how this could happen at MSU, how do we understand this incident, and how we can prevent it.”

Lawler covered the Nassar scandal for more than a year, but was met with negative reactions.

“It’s a hard story to read because you put yourself in the victim’s shoes” Lawler said. “This could have happened to anybody… its uncomfortable and it’s about an institution that is immensely popular.”

Lawler explained that by nature, most sexual assault cases happen under the cover of darkness. In the case of Nassar, it was easy to trust the registered physician over the women.  

“We are raised to trust doctors,” Lawler said. “Parents are conditioned to say, ‘this is what the doctor says.’”

In Lawler’s first article she published, “MSU doctor's alleged victims talked for 20 years. Was anyone listening?”  she explained that many of the women who came forward about the abuse were met with skepticism. It wasn’t until Denhollander came forward did people finally begin to understand the gravity of the situation.

“[Denhollander’s] decision to come forward is what snowballed all of this into the story it is today,” Lawler said. “A lot of women said Denhollander’s story made them come forward.”

Lawler also said that national movements like #MeToo made the controversy a national conversation.

“[#MeToo] had a very broad reach,” Lawler said. “It shaped our cultures and viewpoints in the past year.”

Eventually, the number of women coming forward became too big to ignore. Lawler estimates that more than 150 young women were assaulted during Nassar’s time as a physician at MSU. Most of the abuse was disguised as medial examinations. Nassar was recently sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison.

Lawler touched on the importance of speaking up against abuse.

“What’s disturbing is if these women hadn’t come forward, this man could still be at MSU assaulting woman every day,” Lawler said.

Lawler leaves women everywhere with some advice.

“It’s okay to question authority, it’s okay to question institutions you respect” she said. “Sometimes your instincts are stronger and smarter than what people are telling you.”