How many times must victims relive their trauma in the Larry Nassar case?
Warning: The references to sexual abuse detailed in this article could be triggering for people who have been victims of abuse.
"All we needed was one adult to do the right thing," Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman said today in her powerful testimony in front of the Senate hearing investigating the handling of the Larry Nassar case. The hearing comes just days after the FBI fired one agent who had worked on the Nassar investigation, and two months after the Justice Department's inspector general released a report citing multiple failures of law enforcement in the case which allowed Nassar to continue his medical practice for eight months at Michigan State University — and, according to the report, molest an additional 70 girls and women.
While Nassar is serving a 175-year sentence in prison, his serial molestation will haunt his victims forever. To add insult to that injury, it appears that the American justice system would have those victims continue to relive their traumas in front of lawmakers and the media. While it is important that the FBI answer for its mishandling of the Nassar investigation, it feels as though this hearing could only add fuel to the patriarchal societal flame that keeps victims from coming forward in cases of sexual misconduct. Simone Biles highlighted this continued mistreatment of Nassar's victims stating that she "could not imagine being less comfortable." She continued in her emotional testimony, "To be clear. I blame Larry Nassar, but I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse," and that system included many people in that room today.
McKayla Maroney also testified to the uncaring and callous treatment she received from the FBI when trying to get justice and stop Nassar's pre-meditated and insidious abuse. Maroney revealed that FBI agents forced her to rehash her trauma repeatedly, even just before she won her Olympic gold medal, and in one case when she had finished recounting a harrowing story in which she thought she was going to die at the hands of Nassar, she was asked "Is that all?"
Not only did agents show little empathy or humanity in their handling of the investigation, they also dismissed it initially. "When [The FBI] eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney testified. “They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others.” FBI director Christopher Wray, who took the position in 2017 after the Nassar investigation, testified that he was "heartsick and furious," continuing, "We need to remember the pain that occurred when our folks failed to do their job."
While it is encouraging to see a public reckoning at such a high level, the years of recounting abuse for the public eye is not how these matters should be handled. It is re-traumatizing for victims to have to continually relive abuses, and it's highly discouraging that our legal system thinks that's a reasoned way to serve justice in cases of sexual misconduct. It feeds into the narrative that women aren't to be believed, and can dissuade victims from coming forward to avoid the ensuing circus. Hopefully this investigation will create real change in the way that sexual predators are prosecuted and investigated. In the mean time thank you to the courageous women who are bravely enduring this bureaucratical scrutiny, who as Raisman said in a press conference today "deserve more than words" from the powers that be.