Female athletes on the USA gymnastics team have been sexually abused for at least 20 years. In 2015, Maggie Nichols was the first to publicly report the abuse she endured from Dr. Larry Nassar, former USA Gymnastics doctor and sports medicine physician at Michigan State. Nichols was only 15 years old when the abuse began, and despite years going by, court cases and lawsuits continue, forcing the victims to continue suffering from the trauma.
“The impact of this man’s abuse will never be over,” Simone Biles said during a Senate hearing on September 15, following the 2015 allegations for which Nassar is serving a life sentence. According to Vox.com, around 300 people have accused Nasaar of sexual abuse.
Biles, along with elite gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols, testified about the abuse they experienced by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. During the hearing, the gymnasts focused on the immense betrayal they felt by the FBI investigators, along with USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, who Raisman said “made me feel my criminal case wasn’t worth pursuing.”
The girls recounted how badly the FBI handled the allegations. Maroney, for example, explained how she sat on her bedroom floor in 2015 crying over the phone to the FBI agent as they remained silent.
“I was so shocked at the agent’s silence and disregard for my trauma. After that minute of silence, he asked, ‘Is that all?’” Maroney said. She recalled how terrible it was to have her abuse “be minimized and disregarded by the people who were supposed to protect me.”
Not only did the FBI fail to report her abuse immediately, but when they finally documented it over a year later, they made completely false claims about what she said happened. Before this hearing, a report by the Department of Justice’s inspector general said that the cover-up by Indianapolis FBI officials led to at least 70 other gymnasts being sexually abused by Nassar.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa stated that children “suffered needlessly because multiple agents in multiple offices at the FBI neglected to share the Nassar allegations with their law enforcement counterparts at state and local agencies.”
The gymnasts also called out the Justice Department for choosing not to charge two former FBI employees involved closely with the case.
“A message needs to be sent: If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe,” said Biles. “Enough is enough.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was not the director at the time, apologized on behalf of the bureau, saying that “on no planet is what happened in this case acceptable.”
This case is just one of many examples of abuse that have been allowed to go on too long before justice is finally served. Whether it happens in gymnastics, at universities, or in the home, victims have a right to be heard and protected – and the abusers need to be caught and punished.
“I think for so long all of us questioned, just because someone else wasn’t fully validating us, that we doubted what happened to us,” Maroney said. “I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing.”