Larry Nassar, the doctor accused of abusing more than 100 women and girls, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. More than 80 victims testified against Nassar, describing the impact of being assaulted by him. Nassar admitted molesting athletes during treatment while he was employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. Some of the gymnasts were as young as 6-years-old.
While sexual assault allegations against Nassar date back to 1997, it wasn’t until gymnast Rachael Denhollander spoke publicly in 2016 that a proper investigation began. Since the allegations, USA Gymnastics has been criticized for how it handled complaints. Many of the victims said they felt betrayed by the institution for ignoring their complaints; they said the governing body was only concerned with avoiding bad publicity.
What the Nassar scandal has made glaringly apparent is that the organizations consistently failed to act in the best interests of athletes.
Sexual abuse by doctors, church leaders, businessmen, entertainers, and others is surprisingly widespread, yet institutions continue to engage in cover-ups. The glaring questions are always the same -- what the institutions involved knew, when they knew it, and why no action was taken.
USA Gymnastics and Michigan State deny wrongdoing and said they reported the sexual abuse allegations to authorities once they learned about them. Yet, the fallout has moved slowly. For example, it wasn’t until this past week that USA Gymnastics cut ties with the Karolyi Ranch, the training facility where the abuse happened. Additionally, three leaders of its board stepped down under pressure. However, it isn’t enough. USA Gymnastics needs a top-to-bottom culture change to put the safety of athletes ahead of winning medals.
Prosecutor Angela Povilaitis said today that Nassar is “possibly the most prolific serial child sex abuser in history.”
The #MeToo was started to not only encourage victims of sexual assault and violence to speak out, but also to raise awareness of how common and widespread this problem is. However, awareness and encouragement of the movement are not enough. If you have been abused, know someone who has, or find yourself in such situations in the future, speak out!
"To each survivor, thank you,” said Povilaitis. “Thank you for coming forward, for trusting us, for doing what is so hard and difficult. What is obvious is that a strong group of determined women can in fact change the world, and will.”
It is time we fix the culture that allows abuse to flourish. It is important that those like Nassar are stopped and brought to justice so that future generations will not have to worry about becoming a victim; so they will never have to say – “Me Too.”