“How Much is a Girl Worth?”: Words from the USA Gymnasts


Image Source: NPR

Analise Bruno, Editor-in-Chief

USA Gymnastics has appeared in the news under a multitude of different headlines that spotlighted them for both good and bad reasons. While the more positive articles have focused on accomplishments made by the nation’s most decorated gymnasts, others have come out to expose the institution for its mistreatment of the athletes and neglect of their well-being. Still, nothing quite rocked the newsstands like the case against USAG and Larry Nassar. Nassar, known for being the team’s doctor/physical therapist, was found to have been using his authority to sexually assault and harass many of the female gymnasts most of us have seen flying high on our big screens during the World Championships, or even the Olympics. 

Nassar was sentenced in 2017 to life in prison, with sixty years being for possession of child pornography, and an additional 175 years coming from seven guilty counts of sexual misconduct. Justice Rosemarie Aquilina, the judge presiding over the case was so utterly disturbed by the actions of Nassar that she rocked the courtroom when by demonetizing his actions publicly to the entire world saying,  “I want you to know as much as it was my honor and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it is my honor and privilege to sentence you because sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again. You have done nothing to control those urges — anywhere you walk destruction will occur to those most vulnerable. … Sir, I’m giving you 175 years, which is 2,100 months. I’ve just signed your death warrant.”

While Nassar may be serving time behind bars, the USAG Gymnasts still want justice from the institution and the FBI for its horrid handling of the abuse they reported. This past Wednesday, esteemed Olympians Simone Biles, Maggie Nichols, McKayla Maroney, and Aly Raisman testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee over the FBI’s involvement in the case. The main allegation being made is that the FBI did not step in to stop or arrest Nassar though they had spoken to gymnasts privately who confirmed they were being inappropriately touched by Nassar. In 2015, Biles testified that she gave a detailed account of the molestation she had endured by Nassar to an FBI agent who met her distressed calls for help with quivering silence and then subsequently falsified her statement. Maroney furthered this by explaining that she also provided “extreme detail” in a 3-hour phone call with the FBI during the summer of 2015 that entailed the abuse she was receiving from Nassar, still, the bureau did nothing, and waited at least 17 months before documenting her interview at all. “An entire system allowed this abuse,” said Biles on the stand, weeping. The gymnasts all claimed that the FBI and USA gymnastics had sufficient knowledge of the abuse that was occurring behind the scenes but simply chose not to step in due to vanity and financial reasons. “They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others,” said Maroney. 

While it’s only been a few years since the women gave powerful and tear-jerking impact statements at Nassar’s trial, they came back to the stand once again to render the importance of believing women and taking abuse seriously. Raisman pointed out that after exposing the gruesome details of her abuse, that the FBI made her feel that, “her abuse didn’t count” as her allegations and reports were never taken seriously by investigators nor followed upon. Nassar had been the team doctor from 1996-2016, and in between those years, there’s no knowing how many women and girls he violated. Yet, what we know as well as the gymnasts is that former FBI agent, Michael Langman, knew about what was occurring at USAG, but did not investigate further. 

The impacts of Nassar’s abuse will never be forgotten, and it is incredibly disheartening to see the way an entire system blindsided such horrific abuse for their benefit. Still, the concept of people not believing female sexual assault victims is a commonality that extends far beyond the realm of USAG. While the public and media push for women to report incidents of harassment rather than sitting on them, victims are still met with no justice as their claims are being falsified and tossed aside. The gymnasts, in this case, were made to feel as though their sexual assault was not valid, or insignificant. They were told they would be able to obtain justice for their suffering, and they still had not until years later. It is these cases that must make us reevaluate our values as a society on how we treat survivors of sexual assault. 

***This opinion article reflects the voice of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Viking Times as a whole.  Like most news outlets, The Viking Times is a non-partisan media platform.***