After a seven-day hearing filled with tremendous emotion, Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years Jan. 24 in a Michigan courtroom for the abuse he inflicted on more than 150 young women throughout the course of his medical career, according to The New York Times.
Prior to last Wednesday’s sentencing, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina opened the court to the women accusing Nassar of assault and allowed them, as well as their families, to give impact statements and publicly confront the once lauded doctor.
Several said they were as young as six when the abuse began and often had their parents in the exam room during the inappropriate procedures, The Times reports.
The former team doctor for USA Gymnastics had also been sentenced last December in federal court to an additional 60 years, following a guilty plea to multiple charges of child pornography, creating what Aquilina called his “death warrant,” according to The Times.
Among the survivors voicing their stories were Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber and McKayla Maroney, who each said Nassar molested them under the guise of providing medical treatments and then shaming them into silence.
“Nassar was not a doctor,” Maroney said in a letter to the court, according to a Times article. “He in fact is, was, and forever shall be a child molester, and a monster of a human being.”
Nassar served on the USA Gymnastics staff from 1996 to 2014.
During this period, he was also a faculty member and ran his own gymnastics clinic at Michigan State University (MSU) until 2016.
When trying to report their abuse to either organization, as well as their local authorities, several of the women said they were met with disbelief, convinced it was just a mistake and told they didn’t understand their own bodies — a gross miscalculation that lead a few to even commit suicide.
“I was a 17-year-old that reported your abuse to police in 2004. … you had the audacity to tell (police) I misunderstood the treatment because I wasn’t comfortable with my body. … Sadly they took your word instead of mine,” said survivor Brianne Randall in court, according to a Buzzfeed article.
These women made every attempt to show people the dark side of the doctor, but no one was there to listen, leaving them suffering through cruel treatments in silence and shame.
USA Gymnastics, MSU and law enforcement were supposed to protect these young women, but instead these institutions sent them to the one person who enjoyed hurting rather than healing them. They are just as guilty.
“If they would have taken action when it was first reported, they would have saved me,” said survivor Olivia Cowan in court, according to a Buzzfeed article.
Many of the survivors and their families called for the removal of those who allowed Nassar to continue working at MSU and USA Gymnastics, despite hearing several reports of sexual misconduct made against the doctor.
The Times reports some of the organizations have complied, firing several executives. However, it isn’t enough to simply eliminate these individuals from power — that won’t scrub the sport clean of Nassar’s influence and it certainly won’t prevent someone from doing something similar.
These institutions need to start from the ground up, analyze the entirety of their groups and conduct thorough investigations. But first, they need to apologize to the women they endangered and show a valid commitment to making sure it never happens again.
We, as a society, also must be committed to ending sexual violence against all people by believing those who come forward and treating their stories with the utmost importance.
Let’s not wait until another 150-plus women are sexually abused before we sit up and take note. Listen the first time and act rather than asking “why,” or this type of behavior will only continue and worsen.
Olivia Heersink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org