Sexual assault is something that is not talked about enough, considering how common it is. Something that has been made to make the victims feel like they are in the wrong, that if they speak up something bad will happen to them and their abuser would go unpunished. The girls that came forward to speak out against the abuse that Larry Nassar made sure that this would not happen to them, and saved future girls from Nassars touch.
“USA Gymnastics failed to support them, so now they will support one another.”
With nearly 160 accusers gathered in a courtroom, it became the largest sex scandal in the history of sports. Larry Nassar was a respected osteopathic doctor (someone who treats a person as a whole, not just their symptoms) who was the primary physician for the United States women’s Olympic gymnastics team, along with other various clubs and university level teams and athletes.
“As top gymnasts they were supposed to be silent, sexless, obedient little girls.”
What did Nassar do? He would inappropriately penetrate young female athletes’ vaginas and rectums with his fingers while they would lay on his massage or exam table to receive “treatment” for their injuries.
“Nassar hid his creeping fingers under a towel while her mom perched on a chair on the other side of his office, chatting about church.”
The earliest known instance of his abuse was in 1992, when a young gymnast was invited to his own apartment, alone. Another time was in 1997, when a 12 year old girl had complained to her mom about Nassars’ “treatments” but refused to go to the police in fear of her spot being taken away on her team. There were 9 other girls who reported Nassar to their coaches over 20 years, but were told that they were overreacting or did not understand his form of treatment. Because Nassar healed the girls so they could fly higher through the air. Twice he was reported officially to the police, in 2004 and again 2014, but when the police questioned him, Nassar showed them a powerpoint of P.F.M he performed on them and saying that they were too young to understand what he was doing. The charges were dropped.
P.F.M stands for pelvic floor manipulation. It is an intravaginal-massage procedure that is done to help female gymnasts’ back problems, hamstring pulls, and gait issues. But it was also Nassars’ main form of abuse towards these girls. Some girls reported that he would close his eyes when performing this procedure, and start to breathe heavily. There were some gymnasts who would come to him with an ankle or hand injury and Nassar would insist that they needed a P.F.M. While doing this procedure he constantly broke A.O.A.’s guidelines that “doctors are supposed to wear gloves, use lubrication, ask for consent before treatment, and, when treating a minor, have another adult present in the room.”
Nassar became someone that the girls could trust. When the girls were at the ranch, a place that was run by the Karolyis’ where they would select the best female gymnasts around and train them in harsh conditions for months, the girls felt like they could not go to their coaches for anything. But Nassar created bonds with the girls, making him the only adult on the ranch that they could trust, in turn, making it much easier for him to abuse them. He was also the only doctor whom the U.S.A.G. allowed the top gymnast to see, because he was the best.
“They didn’t trust the adults at the ranch enough to tell them a secret; maybe they would get kicked off the team for being complainers.”
Finally, the girls started to talk to each other about what Nassar was doing to them. They started to call him “crotch doc” and “butt doc”. A coach overheard one of these conversations and spoke to the gymnast about it, realizing how long and how many athletes had been abused, she reported it to the U.S.A.G. Word then got to the president Steve Penny, and at first he did nothing, because there was not enough evidence to officially accuse Nassar. Penny hired someone from H.R to conduct a minor investigation. Once there was enough evidence, they went to the F.B.I and Nassar decided to quit working with the olympic team and go work for the University of Michigan.
Nassar worked at the university for a year before a story broke about his abuse and that is when a full investigation was launched against him. In that year, he had been abusing gymnasts at the university. Forty Michigan athletes came forward and said that Nassar had been abusing them during his year working with the team.
It took some time, but Nassar was finally arrested and put in prison for 60 years. The presiding judge, Rosemarie Aquilina, had made the decision to allow Nassar’s victims to speak on the stand for as long as they wished before she handed out her sentence. Every time one of his victims would take the stand, his expressions would change. For some he showed fear, disgust or even intense anger towards them; with others he would bow his head or even start sobbing. When one of his victims, Jordyn Wieber, took the stand against him, he immediately started to cry. He had known Wieber since she was a toddler and started abusing her when she was 14 years old.
“All those people who knew and didn’t do anything, they need to be gone.”
The community is not over what Nassar did, but this did help the community become more aware of sexual assault and the importance of taking care of ones mind along with their body. Retired gymnasts are now talking about wanting to disband the U.S.A.G. and being a new national organization from scratch, because of their lack of belief and investigations when Nassar was first reported. Gymnasts are making sure they are no longer keeping quiet, that they are making sure that they, their teammates and even their coaches are becoming aware of the major importance of mental health, along with looking for the many red flags that were missed when Nassar was around.