Image Credits: AP PHOTO
Until last week, when most people thought of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team, they usually think of Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney flying through the air and dazzling audiences worldwide. Now, we think of them as courageous for speaking out against the abuse they endured at the hands of Larry Nassar, the former team doctor.
In September 2016, it was first reported that former gymnasts, including Team USA members came forward and said that Nassar allegedly abused them. USA Gymnastics stated that Nassar was fired in 2015 after learning about athlete concerns. As the #MeToo movement began to gain traction, Olympic Champions McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles, and Aly Raisman shared their stories of abuse at the hands of Nassar. By the time the trial began, Nassar had been accused by over 140 gymnasts.
Over one hundred survivors testified at the sentencing, which lasted for a week instead of the originally planned four days. One by one, the survivors looked their former abuser in the eyes and told him how they felt about him and his actions. On January 24, Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40-175 years in a Michigan state prison. He also faces a 60-year sentence for federal child pornography charges. Rosemarie Aquilina, the judge who presided over the case, told Nassar that she just signed his death warrant after tossing aside his letter he wrote to the court.
Despite the seriousness of the allegations and powerful testimonies from the survivors, this got very little media attention. While everyone was focusing on the drama on Capitol Hill, one of the biggest news stories of 2018 was unfolding in a courtroom in Michigan. Survivors told stories about guilt, suicide attempts, and how they felt betrayed by a monster who claimed that he was treating them. No longer victims and afraid, these women held nothing back:
“You seem to have a hard time looking at me now, but you didn’t when I was half-naked on your table.”
“Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”
“When asked to be here for a survivor’s statement today, you stated that you are too busy to fit it in your schedule. Well, Lou Anna Simon, I can assure you, none of us had the time in our schedules for the past five to twenty years for Larry Nassar to abuse us.”
“Let this sentence strike fear in anyone who thinks it is okay to hurt another person. Abusers, your time is up. The survivors are here, standing tall, and we are not going anywhere.”
This story is important because it isn’t going anywhere soon. More resignations are likely at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where Nassar worked. As the #MeToo movement continues, more incidents like this could be exposed in other organizations as more survivors find the courage to come forward.
These women and their bravery should’ve dominated the headlines. We shouldn’t let this story fade into obscurity. We should be outraged that this went on for so long and that there were so many victims. This outrage should inspire us to take action and create policy changes so something like this never happens again. What is most important is that we should recognize the fact that this all began when one woman, Rachael Denhollander decided to raise her voice and in turn, raised an army of survivors. All it took was one voice to break the silence and bring down a monster.