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Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal finally gets the attention it deserves

Asher Fair
SENIOR ANALYST
Feature
125   //    26 Jan 2018, 09:26 IST

USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar Sentenced On Multiple Sexual Assault Charges
USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar Sentenced On Multiple Sexual Assault Charges

Just last month, I found myself writing an article about why the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal was going virtually undiscussed. The only time it seemed like major news sources would talk about the scandal was when a high-profile gymnast accused the 54-year-old disgraced former doctor of sexual abuse.

But let's be honest -- gymnastics isn't football or basketball. The number of "household name" gymnasts is extremely low, unless, of course, you follow the sport more than once every four years when the Summer Olympics take place.

I believed this was as a result of the fact that Nassar is not a politician. Therefore, no one could use the sexual assault scandal to push a political agenda like we have seen recently in many different ways. Despite its magnitude and the fact that there are more than 150 victims or survivors of the scandal, an extremely small percentage of people knew the name "Larry Nassar".

Then, just last week when major news sources actually started covering the scandal as a result of Nassar's sentencing in Lansing, Michigan, I found myself writing another article about how I believed HBO's release of the trailer for the movie Paterno was a major distraction.

The movie Paterno is set to be about legendary Penn State football head coach Joe Paterno and his role in covering up the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault scandal that came to light in 2011. This scandal had roughly one-third of the number of victims as the Nassar scandal had.

With football being so much more popular and lucrative than gymnastics, it seemed pretty convenient that of all the weeks for this to come out, it came out during the week of Nassar's sentencing as if we were supposed to ignore one sexual assault scandal so that someone could capitalize and make millions of dollars on another.

If you think money has nothing to do with it, consider this. Let's face it; not many people know who Kathie Klages is. People know who Joe Paterno was. Could you see a movie being called Klages being released about the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal within the next few years? Not a chance.

Klages was a gymnastics coach at Michigan State, by the way. Nassar himself was employed by Michigan State before he was fired in 2016, and Klages constantly defended and enabled his behavior.

In fact, Klages even had her gymnasts sign a sympathy card for Nassar when the assault allegations against him started rolling in publicly. She retired in February of 2017 as the allegations began to stack up.

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But finally, the scandal has gotten the media addition it deserves to get. I have seen coverage of Nassar's sentencing on almost every major news sources I have looked at, including major sports networks such as ESPN. It went from hardly being anywhere to being literally everywhere.

A few weeks ago, this would not have been the case. There are many factors that I believe contributed to these survivors getting the public recognition that they deserve, and I believe the number one factor was Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.

The initial date for Nassar's sentencing was Friday, January 12th. However, Aquilina wanted there to be time for every single victim or survivor to be able to give an impact statement in front of Nassar in the courtroom, so it was postponed. These statements did not begin until Tuesday, January 16th when Kyle Stephens gave her testimony.

Aquilina has been criticized for the way she ran the sentencing, but her approach was simply uncommon -- not illegal. Her primary goal was to allow the focus to be on the survivors -- each and every one of them. Her personal approach to each survivor's statement and her constant jabs at Nassar were perfect given the circumstances.

Her approach was exactly what the survivors needed.

Throughout the seven days during which 169 survivors, parents and representatives delivered impact statements, the media began to swarm. Every day, many powerful statements were issued, and the media took these and ran with them, creating tons of headlines about the bravery and courage of the survivors.

Over the course of these seven days, this scandal, which is, in fact, the largest sexual assault scandal in sports history, finally became national news like it should have been all along.

With an investigation into Michigan State University, an institution that enabled Nassar's behavior, and possible investigations into U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee, which are also institutions that enabled his behavior, don't expect this to change anytime soon. Now that the public have been made aware of the issue, don't expect people to stop caring.

While the amount of coverage the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal got from start to finish pales in comparison to the amount of coverage that allegations against politicians get and the amount of coverage the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault scandal got despite the fact that the Nassar scandal had roughly three times as many victims as the Sandusky scandal, it is still great to see the survivors finally getting the recognition that they deserve.

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