A week ago, Larry Nassar, team doctor at U.S.A. Gymnastics and physician at Michigan State University, was sentenced up to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting hundreds of young women in the Team U.S.A. and M.S.U. gymnastics programs.
As made clear in gut-wrenching fashion throughout his trial, the women he abused were let down repeatedly by their family and friends, their mentors and institutions. Over 100 of his accusers provided testimonies at his sentencing. Each story seemed satisfactory to put Nassar away for life. They varied in content and emotion, but each one emulated the last in raising the question: Why wasn’t anything done?
At the hearings, the mother of a victim spoke of her daughter who quit gymnastics, spiraled into depression and committed suicide after Nassar assaulted her. Another victim said that her father killed himself due to guilt of believing Nassar over her.
These women spoke out well before the hearing, but were dismissed. These women told the people in power at Michigan State of this abuse, but Michigan State refused to listen.
It’s easy to view the Nassar case as a case of institutional failure. It’s easy to see the pattern of institutional negligence, in similar instances in recent memory. The obvious comparison is the abuse perpetrated by Jerry Sandusky at Pennsylvania State University. People lost their jobs, administration officials were charged, pled guilty, served time and the school was fined a record-breaking $2.4 million by the federal government.