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What Larry Nassar’s Trial Reveals About Rape Culture in the Professional World

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Maeve Friedman, Staff Writer

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Disclaimer: This article contains references to sexual assault and abuse.

 

Inside the walls of the Ingham County Circuit Courtroom, over a hundred women and their families gathered early on January 28, 2018 to face the man responsible for their sexual assault: former Olympic gymnastics’ physician Larry Nassar. That morning, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman stood at the podium as her words echoed through the courtroom, “We, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing. The tables have turned, Larry. We are here. We have our voices, and we are not going anywhere.” Raisman was just one of 156 women who spoke of their assault, reclaiming the voice that Nassar ruthlessly took from them. Nassar used his position of power to fulfill his sickening desires, spending several decades taking advantage of minors as young as twelve, assuring them that the sexual misconduct was part of their treatment and to their physical benefit. Before sentencing Nassar to 40-175 years in prison, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina stated, “I’ve just signed your death warrant. I find that you don’t get it, that you’re a danger. That you remain a danger.”

Rape culture and entitlement remain tragically ingrained into the minds of predators such as Nassar. In an extensive letter, Nassar revealed a major victim complex, complaining of how hard is was to listen to all of the women speak of their abuse. Proceeding to defend his medical treatment and invalidate the survivors, he accused them of lying and dramatizing the situation, writing, “I was a good doctor because my treatments worked, and those patients that are now speaking out are the same ones that praised and came back over and over. The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I broke their trust. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” The attempt to diminish these women, invalidating their personal sentiments of anger and hurt as they describe their abuse, stems from a place of pure evil. Nassar admitted to several accounts of sexual assault but evidently showed no genuine remorse for his actions, putting the blame on the women, saying “they feel I broke their trust”.

Not only does this issue lie within the sick minds of predators like Nassar, but is ingrained within institutional cultures. After multiple survivors detailed their stories of assault, they were ignored by large organizations from USA Gymnastics to the US Olympic Committee and to Michigan State University. This prioritization of the establishment’s reputation and fundraising over student-athletes’ safety reveals a horrifying level of face-saving bureaucracy fueled by rape culture and a lack of care for victims. Aly Raisman responded to this expectation to respect Nassar, declaring, “I know people will say ‘Why didn’t she tell her mom? Why didn’t she say anything?’ But those questions are unfair. The fact is I didn’t really know it was happening to me. What people don’t get is that he was a doctor. I would never have imagined that a doctor would abuse me or manipulate me so badly.”

The outbreak of this case, paired with numerous other incidents similar to it, leaves me with several questions. Where do we draw the line at granting trust and respect to those with power? How can our society assure that the system wherein these authoritative figures function does not justify and protect these abuses of power? How can we, as women and as individuals in the SSFS community, feel safe in a world as full of abuse as ours is?

 

Sources:

 

Connor, Tracy. “Larry Nassar complains it’s too hard to listen to victim stories.” NBC News.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/larry-nassar-complains-it-s-too-hard-listen-victi

m-stories-n838731.

 

Levenson, Eric. “Larry Nassar sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for decades of sexual

abuse.” CNN News.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/24/us/larry-nassar-sentencing/index.html.

 

Park, Alice. “Aly Raisman Opens Up About Sexual Abuse by USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry

Nassar.” TIME Magazine. http://time.com/5020885/aly-raisman-sexual-abuse-usa-gymnastics-doctor-larry-nassar/.

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What Larry Nassar’s Trial Reveals About Rape Culture in the Professional World