We Should All Take a Note from Judge Rosemarie Aquilina

     Former USA gymnastics team and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar was recently sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after sexually assaulting over 160 women. Nassar assaulted women who came to him for their sports injuries, telling them that what was actually sexual assault was treatment.

     In a seven day hearing, multiple women came forward and gave their testaments about Nassar’s negative effect on their lives. Among the many brave women who spoke out about Nassar’s crimes were former Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, and former gymnasts Marta Stern, Clasina Syrovy, and Jamie Dantzscher.

     The stories of these women were brought to justice by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who has gained lots of attention for her fierce comments towards Nassar in the courtroom. Rather than showing a cold, neutral position, Judge Aquilina was very open about her disgust with Nassar.

     When she gave Nassar his final sentencing, she stated simply but strongly, “I just signed your death warrant.” From the very beginning of the hearing, it was clear that the Judge stood in solidarity with all of the women who decided to speak at the hearing.

     Nassar wrote a letter to the women he assaulted, which was read during the hearing. His words, of course, was blatantly sexist. He stated, “I was a good doctor because my treatments worked, and those patients that are now speaking out were the same ones that praised and came back over and over. . . Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. It’s just a complete nightmare.”

     Obviously, this letter shows that Nassar still does not believe just how serious his horrendous actions were. Judge Aquilina’s response, of course, rightly put Nassar in his place. She responded, “You still think somehow that you are right. . . that you’re entitled, that you don’t have to listen. That you did 'treatment.' I wouldn’t send my dogs to you, sir.”

     Though many have said that Judge Aquilina’s statements throughout the hearing were very harsh and were not what should have been said by a judge, her words were exactly what should have been said. The women who testified against Nassar who had told their personal, harrowing stories were silenced for too long, and they deserved an encouraging voice like the Judge’s.

     In light of the recent Title IX controversy at Augustana College, we should all take note of what Judge Aquilina has done for these women. She has given them a chance to be heard. She has given them a safe and open space in which she listened to and respected them.

     There is a reason we call them survivors. They have gone through multiple wars with their abuser, with themselves, and with the people who have pushed away their cases. Survivors have gone through so much, and the fact that there are people who are still trying to silence them is unbelievable and unacceptable. Judge Aquilina’s supporting statements toward the gymnasts and her justified treatment of Nassar show that she will always stand up for survivors, and that we as a community should do the same.