The critics of Larry Nassar's victims were wrong from the start
Disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University physician Larry Nassar was recently sent to United States Penitentiary, Tucson in Tucson, Arizona for the first of his three lengthy prison sentences.
Nassar, 54, was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison this past December on three charges of child pornography. This is the sentence that he is currently serving.
He was then sentenced to between 40 and 175 years in state prison on seven sexual assault charges in January before he was sentenced to between an additional 40 and 125 years in state prison on three more sexual assault charges in February.
Nassar has been accused by over 260 people, mostly female gymnasts, of sexual assault. He performed this predatory behavior under the guise of medical treatment for roughly two decades before he was finally arrested in December of 2016.
But criticism of Nassar's victims exists both on social media and in person even to this day despite the fact that Nassar is behind bars for what he did to them. However, the critics of Nassar's victims got it wrong from the start, and they continue to get it wrong with their unwarranted criticism.
But now is the time for them to wake up once and for all. Here's why.
From the beginning, Nassar's victims were criticized, doubted and silenced. The first known gymnast to accuse Nassar of sexual assault accused him all the way back in 1997, and it took until 2016, nearly 20 years later, for the former doctor to finally be arrested.
This gymnast, Larissa Boyce, is a former gymnast at Michigan State University. In 1997, she told Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathie Klages that Nassar had sexually assaulted her.
Boyce's claims were met with an interrogation, a humiliation and a threat of "serious consequences" by Klages if she were to file the complaint that Boyce had against Nassar for his predatory actions.
Klages only just resigned last February one day after she was suspended by Michigan State for the way she handled a team meeting on the day that Rachael Denhollander became the first person to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault by taking her story to The Indianapolis Star.
Last February before she was suspended and resigned and well after Nassar had been arrested, Klages had her gymnasts at Michigan State sign a sympathy card for Nassar. This was roughly two decades after she did absolutely nothing when she was told by Boyce about Nassar's sexual assault.
According to Lansing State Journal, Klages was asked by the Michigan State University Police Department what Boyce said to her back in 1997. Here was her response.
"I have beat myself up trying to remember but I have no idea."
As stated above, Klages is no longer working at Michigan State, which should not surprise anybody.
In 2014, Nassar was investigated by Michigan State's Title IX department after Amanda Thomashow accused him sexual assault. However, Thomashow was told that she didn't understand the different between sexual assault and a legitimate medical procedure.
Nassar was cleared of all wrongdoing, but he remained under police investigation for this incident. However, then-Michigan State University osteopathic medical school dean William Strampel allowed Nassar to continue treating patients under new guidelines.
Here is what these new guidelines included, according to ESPN's Dan Murphy.
"The guidelines included that Nassar should explain fully what he was doing before touching patients near their genitalia or other private areas, that he should avoid skin-to-skin contact whenever possible, and that a chaperone should be present during any such treatment."
Did Nassar adhere to these new guidelines? No. Did Strampel bother to check? No.
As referenced above, Denhollander became the first person to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault in September of 2016 when she took her story to The Indianapolis Star. It was at this time when Tim Evans, a reporter from The Indianapolis Star, e-mailed Nassar and told him that he had a few questions to ask him.
Strampel found out about this and e-mailed Nassar the following message:
"Good luck. I am on your side."
After The Indianapolis Star published Denhollander's story, Strampel took his criticism of Nassar's victims, particularly Denhollander, to a whole new level when he e-mailed Michigan State executive vice president for academic affairs June Youatt the following message, according to the Washington Post.
“I expect that this will be all over the paper tomorrow...Cherry on the Cake of my day!!!”
Things didn't exactly turn out as planned for Strampel on several levels. First of all, he fired Nassar later that month, albeit against his own wishes. He admitted that he did not want to fire Nassar to a group of students he met with the following month.
Here is what he had to say to these students during that meeting, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“This just goes to show that none of you learned the most basic lesson in medicine, medicine 101, that you should have learned in your first week: don’t trust your patients. Patients lie to get doctors in trouble. And we’re seeing that right now in the news with this Nassar stuff. I don’t think any of these women were actually assaulted by Larry, but Larry didn’t learn that lesson and didn’t have a chaperone in the room, so now they see an opening and they can take advantage of him. As soon as I found out I had to fire his a**. I didn’t want to, but what am I supposed to do?”
Strampel retired in December of 2017 in the wake of the Nassar scandal. Here we are in the middle of 2018, and Strampel, too, is behind bars. Why, you might ask? Sexual misconduct.
Strampel has been charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, official misconduct, and willful neglect of duty, and five women have accused him of these acts.
According to new allegations against him from two more women, Strampel paid them $100 per hour for nude modeling sessions, which included invasive practice exams such as breast and pelvic inspections, which involved vaginal and anal penetration.
Of the dozens of these exams that Strampel conducted, several were held in private and several were held in front of other medical students. One of the models stated that she stopped participating in the exams when Strampel told her that he was "turned on" and physically aroused during one of them.
But is it really that surprising that someone who put everything he had into protecting, enabling and defending Larry Nassar is also a sexual predator?
In a motion filed against Strampel in county court on Wednesday, April 25, prosecutors wrote the following, according to NBC News:
"Dean Strampel is not an amusing, bawdy elder statesman. Rather, he is an ugly predator who used his office to harm young women."
In fact, chief legal counsel Eric Restuccia even compared Strampel and Nassar in the filing, according to New York Post.
“It bears the same eerie mark as the conduct of Larry Nassar, employing the cover of legitimate medical procedures, conducted for his own sexual gratification."
Meanwhile, John Geddert, an Olympic gymnastics coach for the United States Olympic women's gymnastics team in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, was a friend of Nassar. He owned Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in Lansing, Michigan up until January.
Geddert was reportedly told about Nassar's sexual assault by parents of at least one gymnast as early as 1997, but he took no responsible action after he heard these claims.
He was also reportedly told about Nassar's sexual assault by a gymnast herself in 2011, which I will discuss in more detail later on in this article. But once again, he took no responsible action after he heard these claims.
Geddert retired in January following his suspension from membership of USA Gymnastics that he was hit with in wake of the Nassar scandal. He transferred management of Twistars to his wife, Kathryn Geddert, at that time.
He is currently under criminal investigation after several gymnasts came forward with accusations of physical assault against him during Nassar's sentencing hearing in an Ingham County, Michigan courtroom in January.
Here is what gymnast Bailey Lorencen had to say about him, according to CNN.
“John was always scary, even when he wasn’t my coach yet. He would be throwing water bottles at the girls in the gym and get in their face and scream at them.”
She added that there is no way that Geddert did not know what Nassar, who also worked at Twistars, was up to, according to USA Today.
“There is no excuse for you not knowing what was happening in your gym. Except for inexcusable neglect and lack of leadership...I don’t understand why anyone could still want to train (at Twistars), especially knowing that in that back room dungeon, hundreds of your athletes were being molested."
Several other accounts, including very detailed accounts, of Geddert's physical assault have also been given by multiple gymnasts.
One gymnast, Makayla Thrush, stated that Geddert called her a "disrespectful b****" and told her to "climb up to the rafters, jump off and kill myself" when she was only 10 years old.
She also claimed that she was sick with a severe case of mononucleosis that caused her to miss 56 days of school in the 2012-2013 school year, but Geddert did not let her miss a single day of gymnastics practice.
One day, she recalled, he grabbed her in mid-air while she was swinging between the uneven bars and threw her onto the low bar, leaving her with a black eye, swollen lymph nodes and stomach pain.
These injuries ultimately ended her gymnastics career, and she later attempted to commit suicide, something that Geddert had encouraged her to do several years earlier, and not just once. Here is what Thrush had to say about the matter during Nassar's January sentencing hearing, according to CNN.
“You told me to kill myself, not just once but many times. And unfortunately I let you get the better of me, because after you ended my career, I tried.”
Bailey Lorencen's father, Ken Lorencen, believes that Geddert should also be behind bars just like Nassar is given the fact that he has done what he has done to several gymnasts. Here is what he had to say about the matter, according to CNN.
“As parents, of course we’re happy that Larry is behind bars. But John needs to go down as hard as Larry did. Sometimes I think he was worse.”
Geddert's physical assault and Nassar's sexual assault essentially worked hand in hand. Geddert's gymnasts would get injured, either by the sport itself, by his physical assault or both, and they would go to Nassar for "treatment", which was really sexual assault under the guise of medical treatment.
Here is what Michigan State and Twistars gymnast Lindsey Lemke had to say about going to Nassar in Geddert's gym, according to CNN.
“Ironically, Larry was our safe haven.”
With Nassar having been locked up for life and the people and institutions who protected, enabled and defended him, including USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, either under attack, being investigated or already going down one by one, it is pretty clear which side is the right side of this particular matter.
Yet to this day, people continue to criticize Nassar's victims. What, exactly, makes them think that they are right? I am honestly not sure, especially since a lot of their criticism is easily disproven.
First of all, there are the typical complaints that Nassar's accusers are only "in it for the money", which could not be further from the truth. Saying this is basically the equivalent of saying that none of the sexual assault actually happened and that the whole thing was one big scam just so Nassar's accusers could get rich.
Seeing as how many of Nassar's accusers have never even met each other, the idea of them somehow conspiring against him just so that they could get money holds no water.
The fact that Nassar's accusers are suing his enablers, including USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, is because they want to these institutions to be held accountable for the sexual assault that happened for many years under their watch but was ignored, even when people informed officials at these institutions of what was going on.
Saying "it's all about the money" for Nassar's accusers is like saying that the money they are suing USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University for should stay with these two institutions despite the fact that they enabled and turned a blind eye to Nassar's predatory behavior for roughly two decades.
In fact, in many cases, they made tons of money off of the success of the gymnasts who have accused Nassar of sexual assault, and they have made this money while these gymnasts were forced to endure sexual assault at the hands of Nassar.
These institutions essentially profited at the expense of hundreds of lives. If anything, it is "all about the money" for Nassar's enablers for even putting up a fight when it comes to the lawsuits.
It certainly is not "all about the money" for Nassar's accusers, who these institutions profited at the expense of. The accusers are now rightfully seeking justice as a result of what happened to them and what Nassar's enablers did and did not do to allow these awful things to happen to them.
Then, there are the typical complaints that Nassar's accusers are only "in it for the fame". This asinine claim is pretty easy to disprove. If that were the case, I'm pretty sure the people making these ridiculous claims would actually be able to name more than maybe two or three (in some cases, more than zero) of his 260+ accusers.
I have been covering this scandal since Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison this past December, and even I can only name a few dozen of Nassar's accusers off the top of my head. That comes out to right around 10% of them when you include the accusers who chose to remain anonymous.
That is another thing. Several of Nassar's accusers remained anonymous as well, further showing that their accusations are in no way, shape or form being made just so they become famous.
There are also the typical complaints that consist of people asking the question "why are they only speaking up now?" This question itself is based on a fallacy; they aren't "only speaking up now".
I already detailed the case of Larissa Boyce telling coach Kathie Klages that Larry Nassar had sexually assaulted her in 1997 and nothing happening until Nassar was finally arrested in 2016. This situation pretty much set the standard for what happened over the past two decades or so.
Take the situation of former Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney, for example. This was the situation with John Geddert that I started to discuss above but stated that I would discuss it in more detail later on in the article.
Maroney was in a car with Geddert and several of her teammates driving to their hotel after a training session in Tokyo, Japan in 2011 when she stated that Nassar had sexually assaulted her the night before.
Here is how Maroney described this sexual assault, according to NBC.
“That was the scariest night. He went, like, overboard that night. And then I got worked on. [It] was very, very hard for me not to acknowledge the fact that…this was not treatment. I was being abused.
“I was bawling, naked on a bed, him on top of me, like fingering me. I thought I was going to die. It was escalating. I didn’t feel like it was him anymore. It was this other thing that took over. The dark part of him.
“When he was done, I was so happy that I could walk away from that. I felt like I just escaped something. I remember waking up the next day and wanting to tell someone — and hoping that someone would see it in my eyes that something really bad just happened to me, that they would ask me.”
Here is what Maroney had to say about what took place in the car the night after this sexual assault took place, according to NBC.
“I was in the car driving back to the hotel and I even said out loud that last night, Larry was fingering me.”
When asked whether or not anyone heard her make her claim, here is how she responded, according to NBC.
“Yea. Yea…because people gasped.”
Two-time Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman confirmed the fact that this discussion did, in fact, take place, as she was in the car with Maroney and Geddert among others at the time. Here is what she had to say about the matter, according to NBC.
“I remember what McKayla said. She basically described, in graphic detail, what Nassar had done to her the night before.”
Maroney also stated that there were other instances during which she let people know that Nassar was sexually assaulting her, meaning that she did so in other cases aside of that one instance in the car as well. Here is what she had to say about that, according to NBC.
"There were moments, and lots of moments, where I would make little signs and say things like that, but that was the biggest one that I can't even believe that I said that out loud in the car like that but I must have been so desperate at the time."
I'm guessing that the people who have questioned why Maroney is "only speaking up now" after she began to speak publicly last month about the sexual assault that she was forced to endure at the hands of Nassar don't know that she was actually the first high-profile gymnast to publicly reveal that Nassar sexually assaulted her when she did so this past October on Twitter.
Here is the tweet that she used to make this information publicly known.
I'm also guessing that the people who have questioned why Maroney is "only speaking up now" after she began to speak publicly last month about the sexual assault that she was forced to endure at the hands of Nassar don't realize that she did inform multiple people of what Nassar was doing as early as 2011.
The year 2011 was six years before she posted this tweet and a year before she even became well-known for her performance in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England as a member of the United States Olympic women's gymnastics team.
Raisman and Oklahoma University gymnast Maggie Nichols also both revealed that they were sexually assaulted by Nassar in 2015. Nichols became the first person to officially report this sexual assault to USA Gymnastics when she did so in the summer of 2015.
However, as opposed to informing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), USA Gymnastics somehow came to the conclusion that hiring a private investigator named Fran Sepler was a better idea.
Meanwhile, Nichols was not interviewed for another three weeks, and USA Gymnastics only decided to get the FBI involved after Raisman and Maroney let them know that they, too, were sexually assaulted by Nassar.
When the FBI were finally informed of the sexual assault allegations against Nassar, it was not until five weeks after Nichols' initially reported the sexual assault that she was forced to endure at his hands to USA Gymnastics.
The FBI then proceeded to take over a year to actually pursue the case, and dozens of others claim that they were sexually assaulted by Nassar during this time.
The issue is not "why are they just speaking up now?" The real issue is "why is something only being done now about this after all of this time of institutions repetitively dropping the ball and both ignoring and failing to act upon warning signs and sexual assault allegations against Nassar when acting on them could have saved hundreds others from being sexually assaulted by him?"
Finally, there is one controversial topic in regard to one particular accuser that continues to be brought up, and that is the topic of appearing in certain kinds of photo shoots. This topic pertains to Aly Raisman.
There have been several derogatory comments directed at Raisman as a result of the fact that she appeared in photo shoots for ESPN The Body Issue in 2015 and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in both 2017 and 2018.
People have questioned how she can possibly claim that she was sexually assaulted by Nassar when she has taken part in these photo shoots.
The answer is simple: she was.
There is one word that these people seem to not know the meaning of, and that word is "consent".
Whether or not you feel Raisman taking part in these photo shoots is moral is a whole other argument. I have written several articles about the criticism she has faced for taking part in these photo shoots, and not once have I stated my opinion about whether or not I think her doing so is moral. I do not plan on doing so, either.
Why? Because that discussion is irrelevant in this scenario. While those lashing out at her don't realize it, that particular topic has nothing to do with what they are attempting to justify just because she took part in these photo shoots.
These people are attempting to justify Nassar's sexual assault of Raisman just because she took part in these photo shoots, which is completely wrong. First of all, the fact that Raisman appeared in these photo shoots does not give Nassar the right to sexually assault her. That should be common sense, but unfortunately some people just don't understand that.
By that logic, anyone has the right to do whatever they want to everyone who appeared in these photo shoots.
Yet no one ever justifies criticism of athletes such as Bryce Harper or Rob Gronkowski by using the fact that they, too, appeared in ESPN The Body Issue, so why do people try to justify Raisman being forced to endure sexual assault at the hands of Nassar just because she appeared in ESPN The Body Issue and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue?
Secondly, these photo shoots took place after Raisman was sexually assaulted, so even if they did justify Nassar sexually assaulting her, which they certainly do not, they were not an issue in this case.
In fact, Nassar even e-mailed a USA Gymnastics official the following message after Raisman took part in a photo shoot for ESPN The Body Issue in 2015.
“Really!?!?!?! Can’t they wait until they retire before they take their clothes off!”
At that point, he had already sexually assaulted her for several years.
With all of this information from all of these unique yet similar cases in mind, it is overwhelmingly clear that the critics of the victims of Larry Nassar's sexual assault have gotten it wrong from the start, and it is clear that they continue to get it wrong.
Why has that not changed yet? There is nothing to even remotely suggest that Nassar's victims deserve the criticism and insults that are hurled at them on a daily basis both on social media and in person, so I cannot accurately answer that question aside of the fact.
I will, however, say this.
The fact that this even needs to said is sad. It is sad that we live in a society where people are so quick to either blame or discredit victims for sexual assault they were forced to endure, all while not saying a word condemning the actual sexual predator or that protectors, enablers or defends of that sexual predator, and it is also sad that people do this despite the fact that they have little to no background information on the sensitive topic that they are attempting to discuss.
With this having not yet changed, will it ever change? We will just have to take it day by day and wait before we find out for certain, but there are no guarantees, unfortunately.Published 02 May 2018, 15:20 IST