By Linden Warling
On Feb. 5, Lawrence Nassar, former doctor and physician for both USA Gymnastics (USAG) and Michigan State University, received a fourth lifelong prison sentence. The first charge was because of thousands of pictures of child pornography found on Nassar’s laptop after his arrest in late 2016. The next three were assault charges, all made by women under the age of 40 who were “treated” by Mr. Nassar. In reality, they were attacked.
As a young woman and former gymnast, I could not be happier to see Mr. Nassar locked up for good. Some of the horrible things he has done have momentarily stunned me, but in reality, I’m not surprised. Until recently, most sexual assault claims have been ignored by the courts and the abusers have been let off the hook. Abusers got away with their horrible deeds with no one to stand up to them. Larry Nassar himself had been abusing young gymnasts since the 1990s, but no changes were made until last year.
Now, however, the whole truth is coming out. Women are standing together in solidarity. We can fight back. Sexual predators are paying for their actions, and rightly so. Since November of last year, the scandal has caused a ripple, creating widespread effects in both the USAG and college world. In the past, most abuse allegations against coaches in the USAG system have been left unreported, for the sake of keeping a good reputation.
The first allegations against Nassar that were taken seriously came in Sept. 2016. Because of these allegations, Michigan State University fired Nassar in a matter of weeks. Following these events, the president of MSU stepped down among complaints of the issue being previously overlooked at the college. Around the same time, women came forward by the dozens — there have been over 250 accusations of assault by young women, especially those of college age. None of them were truly heard until recently.
Nassar hid his abuse by claiming to be performing “medical procedures,” which meant sticking his fingers into places they should not have been and fondling the girls’ breasts and genitals. In some cases, he did this in front of parents, hiding his hands behind a towel.
In Feb. 2017, three brave women finally came forward, but soon after, former Olympic Team members Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, closely followed by Simone Biles. These are strong young women who we, as college students, know and love. They have shown immense bravery and courage by standing up to huge organizations such as Michigan State, USAG and the United States Olympic Committee itself. And what they have uncovered, the effects they have caused, are all for the better. They’re showing other women who have gone through events like this that it is okay to tell the world what happened to them, and that they will be believed if they tell the truth.
After USAG heard the accusations against Nassar in June 2015, he was fired. In March 2016, its president resigned. Once the ball got rolling on the scandal, sponsors, including multinational corporations like Procter & Gamble. In January of this year, USAG cut ties with the Karolyi Ranch in Texas, a training center where many of the attacks occurred. Soon after, the Karolyis announced that their facility would be closing down. On Jan. 22, three members of the USAG Board of Directors announced their resignation; a few days later, following Nassar’s third trial, the rest of the Board followed.
This scandal has been tough on both the gymnastics and college world. I am ashamed to have ever supported USAG.