The US Gymnastics sex abuse scandal has the entire nation appalled and disgusted, with over 140 women coming out since September 2016 alleging that former national team doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused them under the pretense of giving them medical treatment.
The 54-year-old Nassar pled guilty to federal child pornography charges and was sentenced to 60 years in prison this past month and has also pled guilty to seven charges of first-degree sexual assault which could see him face another 40 to 125 years behind bars.
Amongst the prominent gymnastics national team names that have come out to speak against Nassar are Jamie Dantzscher, Jeanette Antolin, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Maggie Nichols, and now four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles.
Biles, who won five medals overall at the 2016 Rio Olympics, took to her Twitter to detail out the abuse that she, and several other team members faced during Nassar's two decades as the physician at US Gymnastics, writing that "it was a lot harder to speak those words out loud than it is now to put them on paper."
Still only 20 years old, Biles wrote: "It is not normal to receive any type of treatment from a trusted team physician and refer to it as the 'special' treatment. This behavior is completely unacceptable, disgusting, and unacceptable, especially coming from someone I was TOLD to trust."
She is currently in the beginning stages of returning to competing and will have to report to the national team's training center at the Karolyi Ranch north of Houston, where the abuse occurred.
In her statement, Biles explained how 'impossibly difficult' it was to relive those experiences and that it broke her heart that as she trained for Tokyo 2020, she would have to continually return to the same training facility where she was repeatedly abused.
She says she wondered initially if she was to blame, writing: "For too long I've asked myself, 'Was I too naive? Was it may fault?'" Biles wrote. "I now know the answer to those questions. No. No. It was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others," adding that something like that should never happen again, asking that people respect her privacy as she worked through her pain.
In a statement, USA Gymnastics said it was 'heartbroken, sorry, and angry' that Biles and several other athletes were harmed by Nassar. In a release, the organization said: "USA Gymnastics' support is unwavering for Simone and all athletes who courageously came forward to share their experiences. We are our athletes' advocates. USA Gymnastics will continue to listen to our athletes and our members in our efforts of creating a culture of empowerment with a relentless focus on athlete safety every single day."
Unsurprisingly, the exposure of Nasser's behavior and the fact that it continued unchecked for so long has meant that there have been casualties in other parts of the organization as well. President and CEO Steve Penny resigned under pressure and was replaced by Kerry Perry. There are also multiple calls for Paul Parilla, the chairman of the board, to be removed.
The organization has also hired Toby Stark, a child welfare advocate, as its director of SafeSport last summer. Stark's role will be to educate members on rules, educational programs, and reporting. They have also adopted over 70 recommendations by Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw an extensive independent review.
The sentencing of Nassar has begun in a Michigan courtroom, and as mentioned previously, prosecutors are seeking a 40 to a 125-year prison sentence. First to the stands was Kyle Stephens, who told the court that she was abused by Nassar, a family friend, between the ages of six and 12.
Addressing Nassar directly, who could not bring himself about to look her in the eye and had his head bowed, Stephens said: "I testified to let the world know that you are a repulsive liar," adding that despite having informed her parents of the abuse, Nassar had convinced them otherwise.
In a powerful statement, Stephens said: "Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don't stay little forever. They grow into strong women that destroy your world."
It is unclear how many of Nassar's national team victims will be in attendance in court, with Raisman announcing that she could not make it. Taking to Twitter, Raisman wrote: "I will not be attending the sentencing because it is too traumatic for me. My impact letter will be read in court in front of Nassar. I support the brave survivors. We are all in this together. #StopAbuse"
Nassar's hearing is expected to last until Friday, with a total of 88 victims set to read letters and impact statements.
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