Twenty-six year old Louise Harder graduated from Oakland University about a year and a half ago and has her first "real" job; a professional salaried position. Louise was abused by Larry Nassar*, but found a way out. By starving herself, she didn't have to see him. She was sent to different doctors. Unfortunately her solution to the problem was costly; it was financially expensive and became life-threatening.
Louise has received treatment, met with dieticians, and been in therapy because she is determined to heal. It's been financially expensive with costs that had totaled $100,000 by the first of year. Thankfully her parents were savers and were able to cover most of the expenses by using her college fund and their savings. Louise said, "They've been a rock and covered about $85,000 of the costs." Louise was able to cover about $15,000 of the expenses herself.
When Michigan State University announced the MSU Healing Assistance Fund in January, Louise allowed herself to become cautiously optimistic, although she wondered if it was real ... if it was really possible that MSU would be willing to help her.
But fund representative Barbara Janelli assured her that the fund was real and that all expenses required to help her heal would be reimbursed. All she needed to do was submit the receipts for the services she received. For the first time, Louise didn't have to make trade-offs in terms of getting the therapy she needed vs. paying other bills associated with everyday life. Louise said that the money was great, but for her, what meant the most was someone saying, "You deserve this. We're going to give you the opportunity to heal."
And Louise was starting to heal! While the costs associated with her treatment were huge while she was in crisis, they've been decreasing and are down to about $4,000-5,000 per year now.
Unfortunately when the MSU Healing Assistance Fund was put on hold, Louise got nervous. She was back to worrying about how she would pay for her therapy ... while she was in the therapy. Her therapist has been able to help a bit by putting her on a sliding scale for payments, but the payments and uncertainty are back. Especially now that the fund has been cancelled.
Louise is back to wondering, worrying, and making difficult decisions. While telling her story, she used the word "budgeting" a lot. It's great when a young person understands the need to make trade-offs and tough decisions. But it's sad when those trade-offs include opportunities to heal because of broken promises.
More about Louise Harder
* From ages 16-18
Twenty-seven year old, Alexandra Bourque is a small business owner in Detroit. As a young gymnast, she was abused by Larry Nassar*. It was a betrayal of trust. The abuse has left her facing both physical and emotional issues. Issues that she was addressing with the help of both a medical doctor and a therapist.
The MSU Healing Assistance Fund enabled Alexandra to get the mental health services she needed. And after working with a therapist for four months, she was almost starting to feel better. The therapist was helping her address the anxiety she experiences as a result of the abuse. But when the Fund was temporarly suspended last July, it felt like a rug had been pulled out from under her. Alexandra had trusted the MSU Fund would cover her therapy expenses in a timely manner, but MSU betrayed that trust.
Because she couldn't access reimbursements in the short-term, Alexandra stopped seeing her therapist to avoid incurring additional debt. Then the progress she'd made started to erode, and she started to backslide. Her anxiety increased, the panic attacks returned, and she stayed in more. She was starting to feel like a hermit.
Alexandra was dealing with both medical and anxiety issues as a result of the abuse, so she had a lot of bills to pay. When the Fund was suspended in July**, she hadn't been reimbursed for all of her therapy sessions to that point. The Healing Assistance Fund had initially been very valuable, but suddenly its suspension became yet another issue she had to address. Thankfully, MSU stated that the fund would be re-opened at a future date, so Alexandra knew that eventually she'd be able to pay the bills associated with her therapy earlier in the year.
Unfortunately that promise would be broken too. On Dec 4, 2018, MSU announced that the fund would not be reopened. It was yet another betrayal of trust, and it meant that Alexandra would not ever be reimbursed for her therapy as promised. She's currently unable to pay off those unpaid bills. She's in debt.
Sadly, a fund established "to help facilitate access to counseling and mental health services for the victims of former MSU physician Larry Nassar" has ended up adding to the victims' stress and reinforcing feelings of betrayal.
Reinstating the MSU Healing Assistance Fund would enable Alexandra to be reimbursed for her outstanding therapy bills. And that would be one less battle she'll need to fight as she looks to the future.
Recently, fellow sister survivor, Trinea Gonczar, connected Alexandra with SAFE, a provider of free therapy for sexual assualt survivors. Alexandra is "lucky" in that free services aren't available everywhere. Some of the other survivors live in places (like East Lansing) that don't offer similar services for free.
* while 11-15 years old
** MSU stated that it had "decided to halt all further payments while [allegations of fraud] be investigated." No survivor or family member of a survivor has been associated with any of the fraudulent claims.