Dr. Larry Nassar was sentenced yesterday for sexually abusing seven girls. The actual number was much greater. 168 read impact statements in court. But 7 was the number for court purposes. He received a sentence of 40 to 175 years. He’ll never get out of jail. As Judge Rosemarie Aqulinia said to him, ‘I just signed your death warrant.”
Nassar was a doctor at Michigan State University, including physician to the gymnastics team there. He was also physician to the gymnasts of the USA Olympics. His abuse of athletes, especially gymnastic girls, stretched over two decades.
So why did it take so long for anyone to notice and do something to stop it? Why didn’t someone tell?
The girls DID tell. They told teachers. They told parents and friends. They told the MSU gymnastics coach. They told the police. They were dismissed, even though lots of people suspected enough to warrant a further look. They were just young girls. You can’t trust what they say, especially if they are accusing an authority figure, an authority figure just like you are. Authority figures trust other authority figures, especially if they are practiced and persuasive serial predators, like Larry Nassar and Jerry Sandusky.
After all, who should you believe, a little girl or an accomplished professional like Nassar or Sandusky? But ask yourself this: when was the last time you heard of a little girl sexually abusing a male authority figure?
The Nassar case was just like the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State. People knew, but they did not act, either because they did not believe; or they did not want to believe; or they thought that since everybody knew, someone else would do something about it; or because they thought it would go away on its own without them having to get involved.
I want to make two points:
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MEDIA:
It was only when Rachel Denhollander went to the Indy Star that someone took the story seriously. Without the newspapers, Nassar would still be abusing and his enablers would still be covering it up.
At a time when the media are under attack and accused by people in authority of “fake news,” their importance cannot be overstated. Those in authority will always cover their own behinds first, and try to cover up any abuse of power or justice that reflects badly on them or might threaten their power. Without an independent press, no one would ever know.
THE COMPLICITY OF THE CHURCH
I’m not able to say that the E. Lansing Roman Catholic Church knew that Nassar was sexually abusing girls. I am able to say that they tried to cover up their association with him.
I know that because our granddaughter, Brigid Kennedy, was the investigative reporter for The State News [The S’News], the MSU student newspaper, and she contacted that church about his involvement with them.
She had been told that Nassar was a youth counselor and confirmation mentor and even took kids from the church on overnight campouts without other adults. He had been thus listed on their web site. When she contacted them, though, the church denied knowledge of him. She checked the web site. Sure enough, he was no longer there. But Brigid is a smart woman. She knew how to get into the web site to see what it had said formerly. And there was the smoking gun; yes, he was listed. The church had retroactively removed notice of him and then claimed no knowledge of him. In other words, they lied.
It’s not surprising that any church with a member like Nassar would want to deny him, both for embarrassment and for financial worry. There certainly would be the possibility of real litigation and big damages to be paid if any kids came forward to accuse him of abuse while he was representing the church. But that is what the Catholic Church has done over and over again, denied knowledge, and then enabled the offending priests by continuing to appoint them to positions where they had access to children. They lied over and over again. And enabled the abusers over and over again.
If there is any institution in the country that should be cooperating with the media in exposing injustice and abuse, it is the church. but for the sake of its own power and finances, the church—not just Roman but “evangelical” Protestants as well—engages in excuses and lies and blaming of the victims.
It is disingenuous at best that the Roman and “evangelical” churches, including some of my relatives and friends, are staunchly anti-abortion, on the theory that they are defending “the weakest,” but either excuse or turn a blind eye on the abuse by priests and Catholic laymen and “Christian” politicians of equally weak children who have made the mistake of being born already. Children receive sympathy and protection from these hypocrites only when they are still in the womb. Yes, you are hypocrites. You have no claim on pro-life if you are only pro-birth.
So praise be to the intrepid reporters of The Indy Star and Sacha Pfeiffer of The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team and Brigid Kennedy of The State News and all the other media folk who take the blame and insults and hypocrisy of the abusers and their enablers in order to see that justice is done.
And shame be to any Christian or church that sides with abuse for the sake of sharing in the power of the abusers.
I tweet as yooper1721.