The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements both aim to eliminate sexual abuse against women in both public and the workplace. Sexual abuse, no matter what age you are or where you are from, is not something that anyone should go through. Imagine someone you trusted for almost your entire career abusing their position of trust by abusing you in an unfamiliar location. That is exactly what happened to several famous Team USA gymnasts at the Olympic Games in London and Rio De Janeiro.
Aly Raisman, Jordyn Weiber, Gabrielle Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles all competed together as part of the fierce five in either the London 2012 or Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The remaining two members of the Rio Olympics squad, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian, are yet to say whether or not they are survivors of the abuse that the rest of the squad suffered at the hands of gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. However, the criminal acts of Nassar go much further back than the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. A timeline reveals he attended the 1996 games in Atlanta, the 2000 games in Sydney, the 2004 games in Athens and the 2008 games in Beijing. This begs the question: how many more girls did he abuse during his time as part of USA Gymnastics?
Over the last week Aly Raisman and Jordyn Weiber have been in court to give their victim impact statements. McKayla Maroney was unable to attend court due to the trauma and distress caused, so she had a representative. When Aly read hers out, she stood tall and proud as a survivor does when they confront their abuser, as did Jordyn Weiber. Although McKayla Maroney was not present in court, her emotions were still felt in her victim impact statement. (Her victim impact statement can be seen here on NBC news, Jordyn Weiber’s statement can be seen here on MLive and McKayla Maroney’s statement here on WXYZ-TV Detroit.) Simone Biles and Gabrielle Douglas have not appeared in court or provided statements in this case as they are too afraid. Simone Biles is due to compete in the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo, meaning that she must return to the same national training facility where she was abused as USA Gymnastics will not break their partnership with the national training camp.
One of the most alarming things about this case is that the institutions that employed Nassar knew EXACTLY what was going on. McKayla Maroney was given a $1.25m settlement if she agreed not to speak out about Nassar, if she did she would be fined $100,000. However, Maroney was just a minor in the eyes of the American legal system, so she would have been unable to sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of her settlement. This means that when the American Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics made her sign this agreement, they were also committing an illegal act. She was bribed by the very organisation who should have cared for her wellbeing. Therefore, we need to fight for the creation a global organisation to seek out injustices like this and to clamp down on the sort of dismissive behaviour that was displayed by MSU, Team USA, USA Gymnastics and the American Olympic Committee.
The case against the ex-MSU, USA Gymnastics, Team USA and America Olympic doctor is coming to an end. Since late 2017, when he had 119 civil lawsuits outstanding, many more have come forward to tell their stories. He is now facing several serious charges including 125 criminal charges and 140 civil lawsuits. His ex-employers are also named as co-defendants in these lawsuits too. He previously pleaded guilty to having a staggering 37,000 indecent images of minors on his personal computer. For this offence, he was sentenced to sixty years’ imprisonment, which is the maximum sentence that can be imposed for this type of case. The upcoming sentencing is for the criminal charges relating to the sexual and indecent assault of minors, including the gymnasts.
The Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips, wrote a great and in-depth article in the Observer entitled ‘Abusive men are everywhere – and some of us love them’. It seems in this situation that USA Gymnastics, Team USA, The American Olympic Committee and MSU loved Larry Nassar due to his credentials. He was a highly trained medical professional and had been in the profession for many decades before joining USA Gymnastics in 1986. Are the credentials of someone really a reason to love them? They helped to cover up his abuse, and the illegal settlement they paid out to McKayla Maroney proved that they were willing to do anything to silence their victims.
Nassar was employed by these national organisations to do his work and to sit on advisory boards. Boards that made the safeguarding rules for minors competing. To date, none of them have come forward to congratulate the survivors of the abuse for coming forward and being courageous in telling their stories for the whole world to hear.