Hope in the Aftermath of the Larry Nassar Sentencing

After a week of harrowing, heartbreaking recounts of abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar, justice has finally come for over 150 women. On January 24,  Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison after hundreds of women came forward about him sexually assaulting them.

Where we go from here is crucial. How we address future sexual assault cases will make or break this movement. Bravery and solidarity among women are constantly rising, and with them, we need to see consequences for those who thought they could get away with their crimes.

This case is the epitome of the rape culture we as a society too often deny. We don’t want to admit how monstrous and detrimental the problem truly is, but until we do, things are not going to get better. There were hundreds of victims abused over the course of more than 20 years, all of whom tried to speak up, but inevitably were silenced, paid off and ignored. Amanda Thomashow, in her statement at Nassar’s sentencing, stated, “I reported it. Michigan State University, the school I loved and trusted, had the audacity to tell me that I did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure.” And Jamie Dantzscher stated, “I was attacked on social media. … People didn’t believe me, even people I thought were my friends. They called me a liar, a whore, and even accused me of making all of this up just to get attention.”

It took 156 survivors to come out and relive their trauma for anything to be done. Had action been taken upon the first accusation, had that first victim been taken seriously, Nassar would never have had the power to keep assaulting those hundreds of girls. As McKayla Maroney wrote in her statement, “How could have Larry Nassar been allowed to assault so many women and girls for more than two decades … If Michigan State University, the United States Gymnastics Organization, and the U.S. Olympic Committee had paid attention to any of the red flags in Larry Nassar’s behavior, I never would have met him, I never would have been treated by him, I never would have been abused by him. Dr. Nassar was never a doctor. He was in fact and forever shall be, a child molester, a monster of a human being. End of story.”

It was a blatant abuse of power not just by Nassar, but by the Karolyi Ranch, U.S.O.C., and the USAG organization. Too scared to disgrace their famous name, they tried to keep these girls quiet. To keep profiting off of these young girls’ talent, they let a pedophile continue to prey on athletes. And now it’s all come crumbling down. Nassar has been sentenced to up to 175 years in prison, the Karolyi Ranch has been removed as the women’s team’s training camp and is now under investigation, and the U.S.O.C. is calling on all USAG board members to resign.

However, we cannot conclude this case to be completely dark and dismal. The young women who spoke out against sexual assault have provided a sense of hope during these disheartening times. To shed light on these statements provides a sense of hope among women everywhere. The statements given during Nassar’s sentencing showcased complete and utter strength among the survivors. So, let us always remember these monumental young women, their words, and their legacy.

1. Tiffany Thomas Lopez, softball player

“The army you chose in the late ’90s to silence me, to dismiss me and my attempt at speaking the truth, will not prevail over the army you created when violating us. We seek justice, we deserve justice and we will have it.”

2. Aly Raisman, gymnast

“Let this sentence strike fear in anyone who thinks it is O.K. to hurt another person. Abusers, your time is up. The survivors are here, standing tall, and we are not going anywhere.”

3. Kyle Stephens, family friend

“Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”

4. Lindsey Lemke, gymnast

“You have pissed off the wrong army of women.”

5. Sterling Riethman, former gymnast

“As for us, we are meant to thrive. We are meant to be happy. We are meant to put an end to sexual abuse… And so, here we are today, doing exactly that: we will not rest. Here we are, retaliating the past, explaining our present and working towards a better future.”

6. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina of Ingham County Circuit Court

"You are the new generation of superheroes. Congratulations.”

As tragic as this case was, the fact that action was taken, that victim's voices were heard on a global scale, is essential progress.There was no need for there to be over 150 victims of one single child molester, but nobody chose to listen to these young girls. However, the time is up for ignorance, for turning our heads to what we don't want to see. These young women have pushed for reform in how we handle sexual assault and paved the way for a brighter future.

 

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