On Wednesday, January 24th, former MSU physician and Olympic doctor Larry Nassar received the maximum sentence of 175 years in prison for multiple counts of sexual assault on his patients. He already faced 60 years for possession of child pornography. Close to 200 more women, including gold medalist Aly Raisman, also issued victim impact statements over the course of four days leading up to his sentence.
The scale of Nassar’s abuse and the institutional cover-ups that enabled it are staggering. For decades, gross negligence and blind loyalty buried multiple reports in a filing cabinet, literally. Girls who attempted to speak up were assured that they must have mistaken common medical procedure for sexual penetrating and groping. Others were bullied or threatened into silence by people who refused to believe and refused to listen. Coach John Geddert, a close friend of Nassar’s, insisted his gymnasts see no doctor but Nassar. (One wonders if this is because Nassar turned a blind eye to Geddert’s own abusive coaching methods, which are now also coming to light.) Three members of the USA Gymnastics Board have resigned, as has MSU president Lou Anna Simon. The university still faces a civil lawsuit.
If there’s one single person who can take the credit for finally bringing Nassar down, none have a better claim than Rachael Denhollander: victim zero, first to speak out and open the floodgates of justice. In 2000, Nassar repeatedly abused her over the course of a year after she sought his care for back pain at the age of 15. Confused, afraid, and assured by the responsible adults around her that nothing was amiss, she kept silent for years. Now married with three children, she has become an advocate for sexual assault victims.
Fittingly, she was the last to speak on Wednesday before the sentence was handed down. Her final words left an indelible impression. Nobody was safe, as she witheringly addressed MSU officials who had mocked her for coming forward. She also exposed Nassar’s hypocritical defense attorney, who claimed Rachael was only “in it for the money.” Ironic, considering it was only the attorney who had sucked up to the media, and only the attorney who was getting paid.
Read more at The Stream.