Gymnasts abused by Larry Nassar once again exposed their souls to lawmakers
Posted On September 15, 2021
For several hours, McKayla Maroney sat on her bedroom floor and explained to FBI agents, in graphic detail, the many times she had been sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar.
Telling strangers about the worst times of her life was difficult and uncomfortable. But the Olympic gold medalist did it anyway because she believed it would protect other young women from similar horrors.
She cried as she finished. At the other end of the line, dead silence. Until, finally, a question:
“Is that all?”
“Those words in themselves were one of the worst moments of this whole process for me,” Maroney recalled Wednesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into the FBI’s mismanagement of the abuse case. of Nassar. “For my abuse to be minimized and ignored by the people who were meant to protect me, just feel like my abuse was not enough.”
Unfortunately, this is still not the case.
As powerful as it was to see Maroney, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols in this Senate courtroom and listen to their harrowing tales of how they were betrayed and failed by the FBI and others. who were supposed to protect them, it also seemed hollow. Many of the senators who stumble upon themselves to express their sadness and empathy for these women are the same who, by action or inaction, never thought of harming other women.
They doubted and denigrated the women who accused Brett Kavanaugh, then Supreme Court candidate, of sexual abuse. They backed President Donald Trump despite more than a dozen credible allegations of abuse. They have resisted for the past four years as the Education Department watered down Title IX, making women on college campuses less safe.
And it’s not just them. The same people who express their outrage on behalf of Nassar’s most famous survivors seldom muster the same outrage for the hundreds and thousands of anonymous women who are abused, asking instead what they did to get themselves into this situation or themselves. asking why they didn’t report. Those who express their disgust at the atmosphere that allowed Nassar to prey on hundreds of girls and young women remain silent about the culture of toxic masculinity that created it.
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“You are fighting a systemic problem in our country that is not just in sports,” said Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey. “We’ve seen it from religious institutions to Boy Scouts – when you talk about pedophilia to sexual assault – we see it in restaurants, workplaces, factories.
“It shouldn’t take something directly to trigger our empathy and action,” Booker said. “(In) a country where this violence happens every day… we all play a role in a culture that allows it to happen.”
It is uncomfortable, and for some people undoubtedly embarrassing, to draw comparisons between the compassion shown towards the survivors of Nassar and the cruelty with which others who have been abused are treated. But abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
Sacking the FBI agent who ignored Maroney’s complaint and nearly two years later pulled a false account of it, might bring some satisfaction. But that doesn’t change the attitudes that provoked it in the first place.
Criticizing the US Department of Justice for not having had the integrity to appear at the hearing, let alone prosecute the FBI agents involved in the case, could make good sound bites. But that does nothing to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Of course, the survivors of Nassar want answers. At the very least, we owe them that.
What more they want, what drove them to come forward in the first place, what to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Changing the culture, in the Olympic movement and beyond, so that the women who come forward are worthy of trust and faith.
To re-educate the whole of society so that sexual violence does not happen in the first place.
“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar,” Biles said. “And I also blame a whole system that allowed and perpetrated his abuses.”
Members of the Judicial Commission will no doubt be proud of themselves for the hearing, which dominated media coverage throughout the day on Wednesday. But have they really learned anything?
I’m not talking about asking FBI Director Christopher Wray to confirm that Michael Langeman, the chief agent in the Nassar case, had been fired. I am talking about the substantial changes that all institutions could implement to make women and children safer and feel more protected.
While a few Senators had specific questions for gymnasts, most seemed more interested in just hearing themselves speak. Asking Biles, Maroney, Nichols and Raisman to unveil their traumas in a nationally televised hearing just so Senators could pontificate over the details almost sounded like another form of abuse.
It did not go unnoticed that some of the senators so eager to speak when the gymnasts were in front of them were silent when it came to urging the people actually in a position to do something, Wray and Michael Horowitz, the Inspector General. of the Department of Justice.
“I… know you didn’t come here for our kind words, our empathy,” Booker said. “You came here for justice.
It has been five years since Nassar’s crimes were publicly disclosed, but survivors live with this trauma every day. Biles alluded to having to withdraw from several events at the Tokyo Olympics, saying, “The impacts of this man’s abuse are never over or forgotten.” The same goes for all other survivors of sexual violence.
Maybe the next time a woman shows up to accuse a Supreme Court candidate or president, a few senators will remember her and show her the same kind of empathy they were so eager to show during Wednesday’s hearing.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armor on Twitter @nrarmour.