Olympic Teammates Fight for their Voices to be Heard

Lily Baker, Staff Writer

[CONTENT WARNING: THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE CONTAINS INFORMATION ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT THAT MAY BE UPSETTING TO SOME READERS.]

Olympic legends Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney recently testified against former U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar. For 18 years, Nassar abused his access to hundreds of young girls in a vulnerable and intimate setting through his role. In the 2015 trial pioneered by Raisman, Nassar was discovered to have sexually assaulted as many as 265 girls. The Olympic physician allegedly brainwashed these young gymnasts into believing instances of sexual harassment were for the better of their bodies and to become better gymnasts. As multiple gymnasts began to speak up about Nassar’s abuse, it was later found that USA Gymnastics attempted to cover up these allegations to avoid the ensuing criticism and investigations that were to come. USA Gymnastics has a strong reputation in both the domestic and international gymnastic communities, and the individuals in power within the organization were willing to continue to let these girls suffer and be harmed rather than hold Nassar accountable. The USA Gymnastics system and the FBI investigators wrongfully silenced the survivors of Nassar’s abuse.

On Sept. 15, Biles testified in front of the U.S. Senate alongside her teammates to address the ways in which the FBI failed to bring justice to the survivors. The FBI agents in question did not warrant this case with the attention and level of seriousness it both deserved and needed. Hundreds of girls in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and more, were molested by Nassar, yet agents continued to protect the image of both Nassar and USA Gymnastics. This is one of the largest cases of child sex abuse in American history, which took place over the course of 18 years and put hundreds of girls in danger, and yet the FBI provided a mediocre investigation.

Maroney, who was a medalist in the 2012 Olympic games, testified in detail about Nassar’s abuse. She notes that Nassar consistently abused her to the point that she was in fear of her life. “I thought I was going to die that night because there was no way that he would let me go”, Maroney testified. When Maroney spoke to an FBI agent regarding these harassments, she spoke on the phone for three hours to which the agent responded “is that all?”  Maroney also adds that it took 17 months for the FBI to report her abuse, and when they finally got around to doing so, it was not accurate. Instead, they curated false claims to diminish the blow Nassar and USA gymnastics would receive. In other words, they lied to protect a child sex offender. 

In the courtroom, FBI director Christopher A. Wray recognized the mishandling of the case and apologized directly to the survivors. He also stated that they fired the agent who interviewed Maroney. While this demonstrates sympathy and recognition of the FBI’s flaws, it cannot reverse the trauma the survivors will feel for their entire lives. Raisman has been raising awareness about Nassar and the USA Gymnastics system for years. During the testimony, she admitted that the first time she spoke out against Nassar in 2017, she was so shaken up that she could no longer stand in the shower, and had to be taken to the hospital numerous times because she was so sick with trauma. She states that the FBI made her feel her abuse didn’t happen.

USA Gymnastics and the FBI have a long history of suppressing survivors and disbelieving their abuse. Nassar is a predator who abused hundreds of girls and yet the FBI and USA Gymnastics system tried to protect him and their reputation. This horrible display of inhumanity shows there is more work to be done. The survivors have to live with this trauma for the rest of their lives and still fight for justice. USA Gymnastics and the FBI need to become organizations based in transparency and trust to ensure something like this never happens again.

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