The trial of Dr. Larry Nassar is a milestone for sexual assault survivors

The USA gymnastics doctor was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual conduct

Aly Raisman giving testimony at Dr. Nassar's trial.
Aly Raisman giving testimony at Dr. Nassar's trial.
Photo illustration by Josh Granovsky

Former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar received a sentence last week effectively ending both his career and potential decades of continued sexual assault.

On Jan. 24, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced the now-infamous former sports physician to 40-175 years in prison for multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar was previously sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography, so this newly amended sentence rightly ensures he spends the rest of his life behind bars. In the most recent sentencing, Judge Aquilina stated she often believes in rehabilitation, but doesn’t believe it to be possible for a man like Nassar.

In September of 2016, the Indianapolis Star broke the first public accusation of sexual assault against Nassar. The Star initiated the investigation by releasing statements from former gymnast Rachael Denhollander and another anonymous former Olympic medalist. The two came forward with claims of being sexually abused by Nassar, from as early on as their early teen years with the sports physician.

Since these allegations, over 150 women — including Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles — have come forward with similar revelations about the former doctor’s abuse.

As part of Nassar’s sentencing hearing, 133 women publicly confronted him and delivered powerful victim impact statements. The women reported that Nassar assaulted them while claiming to be performing a medical service or athletic massage that involved vaginal penetration. Nassar would often perform this procedure while the girls’ parents were in the room under the shield of a towel.

Many of the victims tried coming forward at the time of their respective assaults, but were systematically silenced by gymnastics officials. After complaints, the only disciplinary action taken was a repeated warning to Nassar ensure he was following protocol.

Additionally, as reported by the New York Times, LA Times, Vanity Fair and several other notable publications, gymnast McKayla Maroney has reported she was paid over a million dollars by USA Gymnastics in 2017 to keep quiet about her claims towards Nassar.

Nassar’s sentencing reveals the gymnastics world has a culture of abuse that has long tolerated this type of treatment. Since the accusations became public, several board members of USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University athletic directors have stepped down. This resistance from the community shows that USA Gymnastics is bracing for massive change.

Nassar’s sentence, which will put him away for the rest of his life, sets an example for other possible offenders. The extent of his 40 to 175-year sentence shows that the legal system won’t tolerate sexual assault. After seeing the harsh sentence Nassar received, the enduring culture of sexual assault will hopefully begin to change as more demonstrations of its effects and consequences come to light.

In the year of the #MeToo and the Time’s Up movements, Nassar’s trial is especially timely and shows society has shifted. As women have started speaking up about our culture of silencing victims of sexual abuse the spotlight provided to these 150 women gives hope that things are changing.

Clips of the powerful testimonies have racked up millions of views online, including Aly Raisman’s gripping, 13-minute speech spoken directly to Nassar. Putting a stop to Nassar’s long history of abuse is a victory and should be celebrated as such for all the women taking the stand.

Despite this, Nassar’s prosecution is only a small step towards erasing the culture of sexual abuse. He’s just one of the many men who take advantage of our misogynistic culture and more needs to be done to see how this was allowed to happen and how to prevent it from happening again.

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