February 2, 2018
Rarely does the public get to see a victim of sexual abuse directly confront her abuser, let alone face him with the poise, balance, and composure the world saw last week when Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman spoke at the sentencing of former team physician Larry Nassar. In a blisteringly raw and emotional victim impact statement made in a packed Michigan courtroom, Raisman addressed Nassar directly as one of the nearly 265 athletes who has come forward as victims of Nassar’s criminal acts of sexual abuse.
The two-time Olympian minced no words in letting Nassar know how she and her fellow victims rose above everything they had endured to make sure he would finally face justice. “You do realize now the women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time are now a force, and you are nothing,” Raisman said. “The tables have turned, Larry. We are here, we have our voices, and we are not going anywhere.”
Raisman, age 23, also directly slammed the statement previously submitted to the court by Nassar that he was unsure he possessed the mental stamina to listen to all of the victim impact statements. “As for your letter yesterday, you are pathetic to think that anyone would have any sympathy for you. You think this is hard for you? Imagine how all of us feel.”
She continued by painting a picture of the horrific scenario she and so many others were subjected to by Nassar during his tenure as the physician for the U.S.A. Gymnastics. “Imagine how it feels to be an innocent teenager in a foreign country, hearing a knock on the door, and it’s you,” Raisman said, “I don’t want you to be there, but I don’t have a choice. Treatments with you were mandatory. You took advantage of that. You even told on us if we didn’t want to be treated by you, knowing full well the troubles that would cause for us.”
Confronting Nassar’s Enablers
Larry Nassar had served as a sports doctor at Michigan State University. The school is now under intense scrutiny for failing to act on suspicious reports regarding Nassar’s behavior going back nearly thirty years to the 1990’s. This failure to act rings painfully similar to the failure of officials at Penn State to address the sexual abuse of underage boys by assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
But Raisman saved her most damning indictment for both U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee, claiming both organizations knowingly turned a blind eye to the systemic sexual abuse of underage female athletes on their watch. From anecdotes about specific accusations going uninvestigated to blatant enabling of the culture of sexual abuse by the U.S.O.C., Raisman held nothing back.
“At the 2016 Olympic Games, the president of the U.S.O.C. said that the U.S.O.C. would not conduct an investigation. It even defended U.S.A. Gymnastics as one of the leaders in developing policies to protect athletes,” Raisman stated. “That’s the response a courageous woman gets when she speaks out? And when others joined those athletes and began speaking out with more stories of abuse, were they acknowledged? No. It is like being abused all over again.”
After days of impact statements, Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Larry Nassar to a prison term of 40 to 175 years. Upon rendering the sentence, the judge told Nassar, “I just signed your death warrant.”
Role Models in More Ways Than One
Raisman’s impact statement quickly went viral, and for good reason. Her willingness to not only face her accuser but also directly challenge the corrupt system that enabled his crimes was a stark reminder of just how trapped and alone a victim of sexual abuse can feel.
In the aftermath of this tragic scandal, the courage of Aly Raisman and so many others like her to come forward is inspirational. These young women are no longer just role models for their gymnastics abilities; they are now role models for bravely standing up and confronting their abusers and enablers to prevent such a dark chapter of their history from repeating itself.
Forget the two Olympic gold medals and the laundry list of athletic accolades. The performance by Aly Raisman that may ultimately have the most lasting impact on countless young girls watching from home didn’t take place in a gymnasium; It took place in a court of law.
If you need to talk to a lawyer, don’t wait.
The attorneys at The Cifarelli Law Firm, LLP, have been aggressively pursuing claims for victims of sexual abuse, harassment and other forms of misconduct for more than 25 years. Our compassionate attorneys devote their energies to developing innovative strategies designed to achieve maximum compensation for the physical and emotional trauma suffered by victims. We are committed to giving a voice to the victims. Contact us today by calling (949) 502-8600 or use the form on our website to schedule a free and confidential consultation.