With Nassar sentenced, victims and families are still reeling

Jess Kaplan, Staff Writer

Rachel Denhollander went to Dr. Larry Nassar to heal her chronic back pain. Under the guise of “medical treatment,” she was abused with her mother in the room. Like hundreds of other young women, Denhollander was told that she was the problem. Nassar was an admired sports doctor, he had gained the trust of her parents, and they were led to believe that this was a legitimate medical treatment that officials at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics knew about. They were sorely mistaken, but they were not the only ones manipulated by Nassar.

In 2016, Denhollander was the first to file a police report about Nassar’s abuse. Since then, a total of 265 women have accused Nassar of sexual abuse. Among Nassar’s victims are elite gymnasts such as Aly Raisman, Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas, but the vast majority of them are young, unknown female athletes. Of these victims, 160 have offered harrowing accounts of their abuse during Nassar’s sentencing hearing. Victims describe Nassar’s serial pattern of how he abused women: athletes would come to him to cure their pain. He would gain their trust by giving them nicknames, buying them gifts and advocating for their careers. Then, at their most vulnerable points, he manipulated them. He exploited girls for sexual gain and, in turn, left them emotionally and physically damaged. Worst of all, organizations with the power to stop Nassar did nothing, and the cycle continued.

In her testimony, Denhollander’s mother raised the question, “how much is a little girl worth?” A parent would answer that their child is worth the world, and they would never dare to put their child in danger. Nassar fooled them into thinking that he was helping their daughters fulfill their Olympic dreams.

During Nassar’s third and final hearing, Randall Margraves, a father to three daughters abused by Nassar, asked for “five minutes in a locked room with this demon.” Judge Janice Cunningham denied his request, but Margraves was overcome with anger and attempted to attack Nassar, before being reprimanded by the court room’s security guards.

The violent outburst has received widespread support. Even Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow said that “[her] only wish was that the security had been a little slower in constraining [Margraves] until he could have gotten a couple of punches out.”

Margraves’ attack embodied the anger parent’s feel towards Nassar. While violence should not be condoned, this can be justified; Nassar has dramatically altered hundreds of lives, including those of Margraves’ daughters. Fortunately for Margraves, Cunningham says there is “no way” she will press charges on him.

Although Nassar will spend the rest of his life in prison, the pain he caused can never be justified. However, the survivor testimonies give the victims a chance to stand up to Nassar. In the word of survivor Kyle Stephens, “perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women who return to destroy your world.”

 

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