A local organization that works to give voice to victims is bringing to Spokane the judge who made victims a more prominent focus in the Larry Nassar USA Gymnastics sex-abuse scandal.
YWCA Spokane announced Tuesday that Michigan Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has agreed to be the keynote speaker for the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year, the Women of Achievement awards luncheon, to be held Oct. 11.
“Victims are now feeling like they have more voice,” YWCA Spokane CEO Regina Malveaux said. “We felt it was important to weave that theme into our work.”
YWCA has long advocated for victims of domestic violence and children who are exposed to those situations. The facility houses a joint venture by the Spokane Police Department, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and prosecutors who work to combat domestic violence.
In Aquilina, the organization is bringing in a judge who presided over a sentencing that lasted seven days so that more than 150 of Nassar’s victims could confront the former team doctor at Michigan State University. In all, more than 300 former patients claimed Nassar sexually abused them.
After providing a chance to allow many of those victims speak, Aquilina then sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison.
“It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again,” Aquilina told Nassar on Jan. 24, 2018, according to the Associated Press. “You have done nothing to control those urges and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable.”
In a later interview with Newsweek, Aquilina said she took pleasure in handing Nassar a sentence that likely will prevent his release.
“I think as judges, people think we pound the gavel and we’re really mean, but I think the courtroom for both sides is a place of healing,” Aquilina told Newsweek. “And it’s really important for me to know that victims are heard, they’re believed, they understand that each judge, myself including, will do the best job they can to right the wrong. And, of course, you never can right this wrong.”
Aquilina immigrated to the United States at the age of 1 with her family in 1959, from Munich to Detroit, where she lived with her grandparents, according to the YWCA news release.
She graduated from Michigan State University, earned her law degree from Western Michigan University’s Thomas M. Cooley Law School and served 20 years in the Michigan Army National Guard, where she became the first woman to serve in its Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
She’s now coming to Spokane to speak on behalf of the 116-year-old organization that last year helped more than 16,000 women, children and families overcome social justice issues, including providing support for domestic violence abuse and supporting early childhood education.
“Judge Aquilina, clearly in this case, gave victims a voice and gave them empowerment and support to empower themselves,” Malveaux said. “We very much believe the YWCA empowering women is very consistent with the opportunity Judge Aquilina gave those survivors.”
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