The year is 2016.
I was seventeen years old and a highschool graduate as of June. After two months of visiting family members, visiting picturesque sights and spending the summer before my first semester in college abroad, the onset of August brought an exciting time: the Olympics. Though I didn’t routinely keep up with the bulk of competitions that took place, my tuning in was guaranteed when it came to the Taekwondo, swimming, and gymnastics competitions. As I’m sure many Americans can agree, pride for my country’s team shined the brightest when the women’s gymnastic team took the world by storm with their phenomenal performances. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian took home gold for the team all-around.
I was overjoyed.
Fast forward to 2018: I’m a second semester sophomore undergoing preparations for the upcoming four months. As anyone with access to some sort of news outlet can attest, the past few months have been stormed by an influx of sexual assault and abuse allegations from various spectrums of the entertainment industry. Hollywood A-listers along the likes of Gwyenth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Cara Delevingne have spoken out against inappropriate sexual conduct at the hands of renowned film producer Harvey Weinstein. Taylor Swift made headlines for winning a court case against a DJ who groped her during a meet and greet. K-pop star Amber Liu joined the famous #MeToo campaign, signifying that she too was a victim of assault.
As of Wednesday, January 24th, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced renowned sports medicine specialist Larry Nassar, a former Olympic doctor responsible for treating female gymnasts 40 to 175 years in prison for the counts of molesting over 150 young women. As I read through various articles listing the descriptions and testimonies of these brave women, I found myself heartbroken and inspired at the same time. To imagine the physical, emotional and mental pain the survivors must feel is simply unfathomable. Dozens of women testified in court against the man they were once told was a qualified doctor. Someone who was excellent at what he did.
Someone they could trust.
The violation of these young girls reaches far beyond the evils that have been subjected to their bodies. Survivors have mentioned depressive episodes, crippling anxiety, self- harm and suicidal thoughts as a result of years of inappropriate touching at the hands of someone who was in a position of authority. His actions go to show that credentials, no matter how lofty and impressive, mean nothing. Act in accordance to what you have achieved.
Larry Nassar, the sheer evil of so ruthlessly taking away the trust of countless young girls who depended on you in the most horrific and violating manner is a sin I don’t and will never have the capacity to understand. In this case, you abused not only young and innocent children but completly obliterated your authority as someone whose profession it was to keep people healthy and safe.
Your job was to treat the gymnasts of back pain and broken pelvises.
Not to molest them.
Although this monster will be locked up for the rest of his life, the sleepless nights, trust issues, anxiety attacks and loss of life in of itself that the survivors and their loved ones were subjected to is something that can never be taken away.
The venom of Larry’s actions have seeped through years of his survivor’s developing years and young girls. As young women delivered courageous testimonies, I sincerely hope their voices of strength and survival resound in the voices of citizens, lawmakers and officials alike.
Larry. I hope your actions haunt you and nightmares consume you until your last breath. May the rest of your days behind bars fill your world with darkness as the girls you so heartlessly abused radiate and bloom in spite of the evils you subjected onto them.
To every sister survivor who spoke in court, I thank you. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your strength. Most of all, thank you for giving a voice to those all around the world who who have been violated.
The words of Aly Raisman, two time Olympian and someone I consider to be strong beyond belief, reside in my heart and mind. Her testimony is a true testament to her courage and proves that words of the survivors are not to be fallen on deaf ears. After more than ten grueling minutes of combing back through traumatic experiences and speaking to a courtroom full of people and her abuser himself, she concludes with the following:
“My dream is that one day, everyone will know what the words “me too” signify but they will be educated and able to protect themselves from predators like Larry, so that they will never, ever, ever have to say the words, “me too.”