20 of 98 Olympic gymnasts confronted gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar at his sentencing on January 16th. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina dismissed a letter Nassar wrote, which stated he didn’t have strong mental health and, therefore, could not listen to victims’ testimonies.
“Spending four or five days listening to them is minor, considering the hours of pleasure you’ve had at their expense, ruining their lives,” said Aquilina.
Nassar abused Kyle Stephens since she was six years old, but Stephens parents didn’t believe her when she confided in them at 12 years old.
“You convinced my parents I was a liar,” said Stephens.
Former athletes weren’t the only ones who testified – Donna Markham, Chelsea Markham’s mother, sobbed when she shared how her daughter dealt with depression due to Nassar’s choices, which eventually caused her to commit suicide.
“Every day I miss her and it all started with him,” she said. “It all started with him.”
Nassar pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting seven girls. He faces over 60 allegations related to sexual assault claims and most likely started abusing girls in 1994, according to a timeline from IndyStar. He originally pled not guilty to three counts of first-degree sexual conduct with a person under the age of 13 and was freed on a $1M bond. Nassar later pleaded guilty to child pornography and was convicted.
Simone Biles posted a letter on Twitter, which explained how she fears returning to the same training facility the abuse occurred at for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“I love this sport too much and have never been a quitter,” Biles said. “I won’t let this one man, and the others than enabled him, to steal my love and joy.”
USA Gymnastics released a series of statements regarding Nassar’s trial and the surface of these testimonies. McKayla Maroney testified at the hearing, but the organization said it will not seek money from Maroney for her statements, even though it reached a financial settlement with Maroney in 2016 that prevented her from publicly speaking about the issue.
Gymnast Aly Raisman has not ruled out competing in the 2020 Olympics but openly attacked USA Gymnastics on Twitter, accusing the organization of victim-shaming and claiming the organization enabled Nassar, according to CNN. However, USA Gymnastics claims the FBI kept the issue confidential due to an FBI directive which prohibited them from interfering with the investigation.
USA Gymnastics CEO Kerry Perry attended the proceedings in hope of hearing from victims. The organization supports athletes and disapproves of Nassar’s actions. Perry explained how these stories impacted her and will shape her future decisions as a leader.
“Their powerful voices leave an indelible imprint on me and will impact my decisions as president and CEO everyday,” said Perry. “I am profoundly saddened that a single woman was hurt.”
An official statement says Perry recently met with Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks, who shared her vision for USA Gymnastics, including a culture of empowerment and several athlete initiatives: a Listening Forum for grassroots outreach; interaction with clubs, athletes and parents; the Athlete Task Force for sharing ideas and perspectives; a simplified reporting mechanism for abuse; and an athlete assistance fund in the near future.
Numerous women have testified against Nassar within the last couple of years and USA Gymnastics has heard their voices. The organization continues developing new safety strategies, and gymnasts competing in the 2020 games will continue the sport.
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