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Editorial | Larry Nassar sentencing reflects severity of sexual assault

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Editorial | Larry Nassar sentencing reflects severity of sexual assault

Photo of Aly Raismen (left) Gabby Douglas (center) and Simone Biles (right). All three gymnasts have accused Larry Nassar of sexual assault.

Photo of Aly Raismen (left) Gabby Douglas (center) and Simone Biles (right). All three gymnasts have accused Larry Nassar of sexual assault.

Photos Courtesy of Agência Brasil Fotografias

Photo of Aly Raismen (left) Gabby Douglas (center) and Simone Biles (right). All three gymnasts have accused Larry Nassar of sexual assault.

Photos Courtesy of Agência Brasil Fotografias

Photos Courtesy of Agência Brasil Fotografias

Photo of Aly Raismen (left) Gabby Douglas (center) and Simone Biles (right). All three gymnasts have accused Larry Nassar of sexual assault.

The story of Larry Nassar’s alleged sexual assaults against young athletes began long before the #MeToo movement of late 2017 propelled his name back into the media, and it shows that the topic of sexual assault was not taken as seriously before millions of supporters joined the #MeToo movement earlier this year.

More than 100 complaints had been filed in a federal lawsuit against Nassar by June 2017, with some as early as 2012.

In the early days of the #MeToo movement, Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney took to social media to allege that she was abused by Nassar for years while she was a practicing gymnast.

Maroney’s message was amplified when 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman joined Maroney in alleging that Nassar had abused her as well.

In November, Gabby Douglas, a teammate of Raisman’s and Maroney’s and a 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist, publicly shared that she had also fallen victim to Nassar’s abuse.

As these allegations came to light, Nassar was in the midst of pleading guilty to child pornography charges and first-degree criminal sexual misconduct. The child pornography charges alone would land Nassar with a 60-year federal prison sentence.

While these internationally famous gymnasts accused Nassar of one-on-one sexual abuse, they also placed blame on USA Gymnastics, the national governing body of the sport that had employed Nassar for dozens of years. They made it clear that the organization did nothing when faced with public scandal.

In the aftermath of the #MeToo movement’s initial media frenzy, five-time medalist and star of the 2016 Rio Olympics, Simone Biles, came forward in January 2018 to publicly say she was yet another victim of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse.

An eight-day sentencing hearing beginning on Jan. 16 against Nassar saw a total of 156 women share victim impact statements, among them Raisman and her 2012 Olympic gold-medal-winning teammate Jordyn Wieber.

During these hearings, USA Gymnastics announced the resignation of three executive board directors: Chairman Paul Parilla, Vice Chairman Jay Binder and Treasurer Bitsy Kelley.

In March 2017, former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny resigned in hopes to provide a symbol that the governing body would move forward from its long history of sexual abuse scandals.

Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, on top of his sentence for possession of child pornography.

While this sentencing is a cause to rejoice for all of Nassar’s survivors, and survivors of sexual assault in general, there is something about this specific case that raises some questions.

It should not take so many women, including Olympic medalists, to finally break the camel’s back and stop a predator who had been abusing minors for decades.

Aly Raisman said it best herself when she tweeted, “This story is not over, this story is bigger than Larry Nassar, or Steve Penny, or the three Board members who resigned earlier this week.”

How was this abuse allowed to continue after multiple concerns were raised over the years?

While Nassar’s lengthy sentencing is powerful because it shows the severity of sexual abuse with jail time to fit the crime, and it gives a voice to the movement and hope to survivors, we still have a long way to go as a society.

Sexual predators should not be able to work with minors, and concerns and allegations should be fully investigated immediately to protect those who are already so vulnerable.

Let’s allow this instance of justice to spur the movement even further, to be an example to all sexual predators and to serve as a reminder to take initial allegations of abuse seriously.

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