On October 18th, Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney revealed a heartbreaking secret as part of the #MeToo movement. She wrote in a statement that abuse of women by men in power is prevalent not just in Hollywood, but in sports as well. She confessed, “I was molested by Dr. Larry Nassar, the team doctor for the U.S. Women’s National Gymnastics Team, and Olympic Team.”
She went on to explain how the abuse went on for years, from the age of 13 up until she finally left the sport. Maroney’s statement only serves to bring light to an even more horrifying truth. Sexual abuse allegations toward Nassar started as far back as 1994. For over 20 years this gruesome crime has been occuring and no one did a thing.
One of the most terrifying aspects of this case is the fact that it went on undetected, unreported and took so long for the accusations to be thoroughly investigated. Nassar’s victims claimed that for years they had told parents, coaches, counselors and even the police, but they all viewed these stories with skepticism. Now, Nassar faces over 100 accusations of sexual assault.
It’s become clear that USA Gymnastics has time and time again failed to protect its athletes from this kind of abuse. Countless times they have received accusations of sexual assault, yet never reported it to the authorities and never took any action to stop the abuse. Behavior like this is what so often discourages young girls from A. coming forward with their stories of abuse and B. pursuing sports at all.
We have to start protecting these young girls while encouraging them to follow their passions. The #MeToo movement has been able to let women know that they are not alone, and hopefully can help to end rape culture.
All too often, young girls stop participating in sports when they hit puberty. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, by age 14, girls drop out of sports at two times the rate of boys. Whether it be lack of access, cost, social stigma or safety, girls have become completely unmotivated to stay involved in sports as they grow up. And tragedies like this only serve to deter these young women even further.
As Maroney said in her statement, “Our silence has given people the wrong people power for too long, and it’s time to take our power back. And remember, it’s never too late to speak up.”