Nassar Case Demonstrates Why Sexual Abuse Victims Often Remain Silent
In light of the sexual assault scandal involving former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) called on the entire USA Gymnastics board to resign and the remaining members resigned over the weekend. Such gross negligence of duty demanded a clean sweep of the leadership at USA Gymnastics, which was long overdue, and there is still work to be done.
The Nassar case is a textbook demonstration of the social conditions that discourage disclosure of sexual abuse. As researchers have reported, many victims hesitate to come forward due to fear of not being believed or being disregarded in favor of the perpetrators’ denial. They fear being met with victim-blaming, ostracization, and being forced to leave the team. Many others fail to report due to a lack of evidence. As is all too clear in this case, USA Gymnastics met reports with indifference and failed to act.
Through their silence, inaction, and shocking indifference, USA Gymnastics was complicit for decades in the sexual abuse committed against countless women and girls by the now disgraced and convicted doctor, Larry Nassar. The testimonies given by over 160 of Larry Nassar’s victims are nothing short of harrowing, and given the gravity of their abuse, incredibly courageous.
None of the individuals involved in perpetuating this monstrous case of sexual abuse, whether directly or indirectly, should be rewarded with a position of authority. The USA Gymnastics Board members present during Larry Nassar’s ongoing abuse had a duty and responsibility to protect the young gymnasts entrusted to them, and they failed in a monumental way.
Their overdue resignation is another step toward creating a safe environment for future USA gymnasts, but much remains to be done to ensure the safety of young athletes.