Julie Banks Lewis
Power Dynamics in United States Gymnastics
Updated: Nov 8, 2021
Early in September, four US Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols sat for several hours before the US Senate Judiciary Committee bravely reconstructing sexual abuse perpetrated against them by a US Gymnast doctor, Dr. Larry Nassar. Nassar was accused by hundreds of young women and girls whose care he had been entrusted with. Allegations against him were reported to the US Olympics Committee and then to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Nassar was arrested on unrelated charges of child pornography and sentenced to 60+ years in prison in November 2016. It wasn’t until January 2018 that he was sentenced for two decades of sexual abuse he perpetrated against at least over 150 victims. He was a serial abuser.
Dr. Nassar has been convicted, sentenced, and is serving time so what more would these young women want? The hearing was entitled: “Dereliction of Duty: Examining the Inspector General’s Report on the FBI’s Handling of the Larry Nassar Investigation.” The hearing was not primarily intended to allow these young women time and a space to be heard, to request accountability, to seek justice, indeed, it was an opportunity, first for the US Department of Justice to shirk any responsibility or accountability for the actions of members of an American agency that answers to it. The women were invited for comment and one by one they revealed real, raw, abhorrible details of abuse suffered from Nassar. They did so while wiping away tears or openly sobbing.
The same emotions were displayed when they spoke of being interviewed by FBI agents, of having their trauma dismissed and not believed. The FBI reports were poorly handled in so many ways, all of which caused these women more trauma. Additionally, more than another one hundred girls were abused due to FBI’s mishandling. According to the Christopher A. Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, numerous policy and practice changes have been implemented by the bureau,
By having their say and making their stand against institutions of power and prestige in the United States, these women, knowingly or not, contributed to changing the dynamics of power in this country. Unfortunately, I did not recognize during the hearing any actual accountability being taken, nor improper actions being punished, but there are words.
To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse. USA gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic committee knew.