Larry Nassar: Abuse at the Olympics

Bryn Valdez, Reporter

Following his abuse of over 256 young women, Larry Nassar has been sentenced up to 175 years in prison. Since 2016, over 100 women have consecutively stepped forward to report decades of abuse from the former Michigan State and USA gymnastics physician.

   “I feel like saying a grown man abusing these girls is very bad, isn’t strong enough. He scarred his victims for life, and I find it horribly wrong,” said DHS dancer, So. Alivia Lake. “I know the victims will move past it and improve throughout the years, but with something like this happening at such a young age, it would honestly be traumatizing.”

Larry Nassar had previously worked as an athletic trainer and doctor, sexually abusing many of the young female athletes who visited him since 1994 at the earliest, many of whom did not exceed 10 years of age.

“There were an incredible number of enablers,” said DHS Athletic Trainer, Jeb Davis. “There were student-athletes, coaches, and other medical professionals who voiced some concern along the way, and there wasn’t any action associated with it.”

Characteristics of the case, such as this, point to more predators being exposed, as has been observed in Hollywood.

“With our current culture, we’re going to start turning over more rocks and finding more people like this,” said Davis.

The timeline of this case has also been closely followed by the National Athletic Trainers Association, resulting in educational programs specific to sexual abuse victims, and how athletic staff can support them.

“It teaches people like me how we can identify the red flags of sexual abuse and then shows us the best avenues to help them, from both a care and performance perspective,” said Davis.

While the case is sparking more action in small communities and raising awareness for victims, they themselves still face the daunting task of addressing their abuse.

“The challenges for victims coming forward are numerous.” said La Plata County District Attorney, Christian Champagne. “It’s extremely difficult to be a victim in the criminal justice system, and it takes a lot of courage and bravery.”

In addition to this difficulty, even people with higher authority still chose to dismiss the claims and excuse Nassar, escalating the athletes’ suffering.

“I think with great power and success, people are given a high degree of leeway and the benefit of the doubt, so [Nassar] took advantage of that,” said Champagne.

With all of these factors combined, it seems as though our society has hit a breaking point, triggered a sudden shift in tone surrounding sexual abuse, and resulting in many more women speaking up.

“I think there’s safety in numbers, and it’s sometimes too daunting of a task to come forward as the first person to make the accusation because unfortunately society and the criminal justice system can treat victims very harshly,” said Champagne.

However, now that many of the women Nassar abused have spoken up, Nassar was convicted of  criminal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography.

As of February 2018, his crimes have landed Nassar 40-175 years and he is currently being held at a high-security federal Tucson prison.

“I think that the sheer length of time and number of victims probably enhanced his sentence, but each case is unique and you have to look at the facts,” said Champagne.

It is possible that if the case weren’t dealing with such high profile athletes and over such a long period of time, Nassar would be given a lesser sentence.

While it is impossible to forget the trauma that the victims of Nassar have endured, the recent unmasking of many sexual predators seeks to offer closure and peace of mind to them.

Furthermore, the county of La Plata is working to improve conditions and experience for women and men who have experienced sexual abuse.

“For being a small community, we have some great resources that will help victims heal,” said Champagne. “Coming forward may take a lot of courage but it’s also one of the most powerful things a victim can do.”