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In this day and age, it is so easy to take to Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or even the comments section of a YouTube video of a news article to lash out and criticize someone or something, many times by hurling insults.
These methods of criticism have been frequently used by the critics of Larry Nassar’s victims. But what’s important to realize is that there are also people out there who are ignorant and arrogant enough to make such remarks in person as opposed to behind a screen.
For those who do not know, Nassar is the 54-year-old disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor who has been accused of sexually assaulting more than 260 people, many of whom female gymnasts, under the guise of medical treatment over the course of roughly two decades.
Since this past December, Nassar has been sentenced to prison on three separate occasions. In December, he was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on three child pornography charges. This is the sentence that he is currently serving at United States Penitentiary, Tucson in Tucson, Arizona, a maximum-security federal prison that offers a sex offender program for sexual predators such as Nassar.
In January, Nassar was then sentenced to between 40 and 175 years in state prison on seven sexual assault charges following a seven-day sentencing hearing during which 169 people, including 156 of his victims, read victim impact statements in front of Nassar in an Ingham County, Michigan courtroom.
Finally, Nassar was sentenced in February to between an additional 40 and 125 years in state prison on three more sexual assault charges following another lengthy sentencing hearing during which more than 60 people read victim impact statements in front of Nassar in an Eaton County, Michigan courtroom.
Yet as stated above, the criticism against Nassar’s victims — not Nassar himself and not the people and institutions that protected, enabled and defended him — continues to spread on social media, and it is even being spread in person.
Of course, there will be the people who don’t know anything about the scandal in general, much less the details of it, who just assume Nassar’s accusers are out for money and fame. They do not hesitate to make this claim, both on social media and in person.
At the end of the day, it’s a challenge to take these remarks seriously given the fact that I know a little bit more (okay, a lot more) about this scandal than they do, as do many other people.
These remarks do nothing but blame the victims for the sexual assault that they were forced to endure at the hands of Nassar, and it is ridiculous that people who literally know next to nothing if not nothing about the scandal itself feel the need to make insulting comments regarding the survivors of it.
Saying it’s all about money is basically saying that Nassar’s accusers are lying. Many of them have never even met each other, so clearly no one is conspiring against him. He sexually assaulted hundreds of people while several people and institutions protected, enabled and defended him, and he was caught.
This isn’t a big scam, and it’s really not that hard to understand given the fact that he sexually assaulted these people under the guise of medical treatment and used several different grooming techniques to gain their trust.
Also, if it were really all about fame, the people making these claims would be able to name each and every one of Nassar’s accusers. Many of them can’t name five of them.
Yes, false accusations sometimes happen. But the amount of false accusations made in any case pales to the amount of real accusations made in other cases. In this case, we know what Nassar is guilty of and it is clear that his accusers are not out for money or fame.
These ignorant claims are certainly annoying and disgraceful. The people making the claims, as stated, know hardly anything about the scandal to begin with, so they really shouldn’t be taken seriously anyway. Yet their hate continues to pollute social media and, in some cases, the real world.
A personal experience I have with hearing someone try to victim shame is an experience that I did not fully understand at first to be completely honest. In fact, when this person, who I will not name, asked me a question about the #MeToo movement and made remarks about it, I found myself hesitantly nodding as though I agreed with him, although it was clear that I was taken aback.
The comments, which I do not recall word for word, that I am about to discuss were made by one of my college professors. This particular professor opened up each class by randomly selecting three or four students to discuss an article from The Wall Street Journal that they had read and could tie in to the current chapter of discussion.
In the middle of January right around Nassar’s sentencing hearing in Ingham County, Michigan, I was randomly selected to discuss an article from The Wall Street Journal, and the current chapter of discussion was unethical behavior.
I came into the class with notes about this particular article so I knew, in general, what to say if I happened to be called upon, which I was. Here is the summary of this particular article that I brought to class on that day.
This article is about Wall Street keeping the recent wave of #MeToo sexual assault allegations out of the spotlight and having people handle them privately and behind the scenes to allow the accused employees to leave quietly. In some cases, the accused are quietly fired, but they are able to get positions elsewhere. In other cases, they are simply encouraged to resign. This relates to the chapter 4 readings because it is demonstrative of unethical behavior as a result of the bad working conditions these organizations are creating and enabling. Particularly in financial institutions like Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, these organizations are not focusing on the actual issue at hand and instead are more focused on making sure they don’t receive any negative public attention from it via settlements, unlike sports, entertainment, media and technology firms. Meanwhile, the accusers don’t feel justice is served to the accused and the accused can in some cases feel that there isn’t enough time for all the facts to come out. It’s all about saving face.
I probably don’t need to tell you that this particular article does not directly relate to the Nassar scandal. You can clearly see that there is no mention of it whatsoever.
That’s what really made me think about what my professor proceeded to ask me following my summary of the article.
There were certain times throughout the semester where you could sense the sarcasm in his voice and it was obvious that he was looking to make fun of a particular situation, whether that involving one or more of his students or a situation that was being discussed.
This was one of those times during which I could sense that sarcasm.
This professor, who I would guess is in his 60s, does not have a smart phone, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, a Facebook account, you name it. He didn’t even use the computer in front of the room throughout the entire semester.
When he asked me whether or not I thought Twitter was an appropriate place to discuss allegations of sexual assault, I could tell that he clearly thought the fact that people had done such a thing was a joke.
As stated, I nodded hesitantly, after which it became increasingly clear that he thought using Twitter to make these claims was a joke. He even made other remarks during other class sessions when the #MeToo movement was discussed that I didn’t particularly agree with and really made me think.
After taking some time to think about this whole situation, I realize that his opinion on this matter sets a dangerous precedent in regard to how sexual assault can be addressed.
In October, former Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney, who competed on the United States Olympic women’s gymnastics team in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, publicly revealed that she was sexually assaulted at the hands of Nassar.
She did so with a picture of her statement about the matter on Twitter.
In sharing this message, Maroney became the first high-profile gymnast to accuse Nassar of sexual assault. Only after she revealed that she had been sexually assaulted by Nassar did accusations against him from other high-profile gymnasts begin to stack up.
In November, two-time Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman revealed that Nassar had sexually assaulted her. A few days after Raisman revealed this, Gabby Douglas did so as well. In January, Simone Biles revealed that she, too, had been sexually assaulted by Nassar. Jordyn Wieber also revealed that Nassar had sexually assaulted her.
Raisman, Douglas and Wieber were three of Maroney’s teammates on that team, which has been nicknamed the “Fierce Five,” that became the first United States Olympic women’s gymnastics team to win the gold medal since 1996 when the team won the gold medal in the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
Raisman, Douglas and Biles were members of the United States Olympic women’s gymnastics team in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
There are two ways to look at this situation in regard to the argument that people shouldn’t be using Twitter to discuss sexual assault allegations. These two ways tie into one another, and neither way results in the idea that it is wrong to use Twitter to do so.
First of all, we know for a fact that Maroney had previously discussed the sexual assault that she was forced to endure at the hands of Nassar, and we know that she didn’t use Twitter to do it.
Maroney spoke out about Nassar sexually assaulting her when she and her teammates were driving to their hotel in Tokyo, Japan following a training session in 2011. The assault she discussed took place the night before.
Here is how Maroney described this sexual assault, according to NBC.
“That was the scariest night. He went, like, overboard that night. And then I got worked on. [It] was very, very hard for me not to acknowledge the fact that…this was not treatment. I was being abused.
“I was bawling, naked on a bed, him on top of me, like fingering me. I thought I was going to die. It was escalating. I didn’t feel like it was him anymore. It was this other thing that took over. The dark part of him.
“When he was done, I was so happy that I could walk away from that. I felt like I just escaped something. I remember waking up the next day and wanting to tell someone — and hoping that someone would see it in my eyes that something really bad just happened to me, that they would ask me.”
Here is what Maroney had to say about what took place in the car the following night, according to NBC.
“I was in the car driving back to the hotel and I even said out loud that last night, Larry was fingering me.”
John Geddert, a former Olympic gymnastics coach who is currently under criminal investigation for alleged physical assault of a number of gymnasts, was also in the car with Maroney and her teammates when Maroney made these claims.
However, Geddert, who was a close friend of Nassar, said nothing and did nothing about Maroney’s remarks. Here is how Maroney responded when asked whether or not anyone heard her when she made her claims, according to NBC.
“Yea. Yea…because people gasped.”
Raisman, who was also in the car at the time, vouched for Maroney and confirmed that this discussion did, in fact, happen, according to NBC.
“I remember what McKayla said. She basically described, in graphic detail, what Nassar had done to her the night before.”
Maroney also stated that she had told people about Nassar sexually assaulting her on other occasions as well, and nothing was done about it. Here is what she had to say about the matter, according to NBC.
“There were moments, and lots of moments, where I would make little signs and say things like that, but that was the biggest one that I can’t even believe that I said that out loud in the car like that but I must have been so desperate at the time.”
Nassar, meanwhile, was not arrested until December of 2016, which was more than five years after Maroney first told someone about the sexual assault that she had been forced to endure at his hands.
She didn’t publicly reveal that he had sexually assaulted her until October of 2017, which was six years after she stated for the first time that he had sexually assaulted her.
I previously spoke about the fact that there are two ways to look at this situation that tie into one another in regard to the argument that people shouldn’t be using Twitter to discuss sexual assault allegations, and neither way results in the idea that it is wrong to use Twitter to do so.
The first way is this: McKayla Maroney was ignored for years when it came to her accusations of sexual assault against Larry Nassar. What’s so bad about Twitter, which this situation demonstrates may very well have been the only way to actually get people to care?
In fact, Maroney even revealed this past December that USA Gymnastics had attempted to silence her. In December of 2016, which was when Nassar was finally arrested, they forced her to sign a non-disclosure agreement to prevent her from discussing the sexual assault that she was forced to endure at his hands. They paid her $1.25 million to do so.
This means that she had to have spoken up about Nassar sexually assaulting her again between 2011 and December of 2016, and she did in the summer of 2015. However, she did so to no avail again seeing as how Nassar was only arrested in December of 2016 after Rachael Denhollander became the first person to publicly accuse him of sexual assault when she took her story to The Indianapolis Star three months earlier.
Plus, Maroney was only forced to enter into this non-disclosure agreement when Nassar was finally arrested. Nothing happened until then after she had informed USA Gymnastics officials that he had sexually assaulted her.
If Twitter isn’t an “appropriate” place to discuss sexual assault allegations, then what is? Clearly, alerting officials doesn’t always work, as it didn’t in Maroney’s case.
The second way is this: Without Maroney revealing on Twitter that Nassar had sexually assaulted her, becoming the first high-profile gymnast to do so, who knows who else would have had the strength and courage to come forward with accusations of their own? Would Aly Raisman have done so? How about Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles or Jordyn Wieber?
We obviously don’t and can’t know for sure because the fact is Maroney did reveal this disturbing fact. But what we do know is this.
USA Gymnastics attempted to silence Maroney when Nassar was arrested. With allegations against the former doctor stacking up, USA Gymnastics knew that they could not afford to have a high-profile gymnast publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault. So, in an attempt to save face, they paid her $1.25 million to keep quiet.
Aly Raisman also recently revealed that she was offered a settlement by USA Gymnastics. However, she refused to agree to it. Here is what she had to say about the matter, according to NBC.
“They did offer me a settlement, but with confidentiality in it, so obviously I said no. From the very beginning, I knew that I wanted to talk about this.”
Raisman is another gymnast who did speak up about the sexual assault that she was forced to endure at the hands of Nassar, only to have nothing done about it, as was Oklahoma University gymnast Maggie Nichols, who was the first person to officially report Nassar’s sexual assault to USA Gymnastics when she did so in the summer of 2015.
As opposed to going to the Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI right away, USA Gymnastics hired a private investigator named Fran Sepler to look into the sexual assault allegations against Nassar. But Nichols wasn’t interviewed by her for another three weeks.
USA Gymnastics did not call the FBI until Raisman and Maroney confirmed that Nassar had also sexually assaulted them later that summer. In other words, the FBI were not actually called until five weeks after Nichols’ report.
Meanwhile, the FBI took over a year to actually pursue the case, in which time dozens of others claim that Nassar sexually assaulted them.
Nassar was fired by USA Gymnastics, but USA Gymnastics did not correct a statement that he put out saying that he had retired. Meanwhile, the United States Olympic Committee and Michigan State University were not notified that he was suspected of sexual assault.
Likewise, Michigan State University did not notify USA Gymnastics when Nassar was under investigation in 2014 by the school’s Title IX department following an accusation of sexual assault by Amanda Thomashow.
Nassar was cleared of all wrong, but he remained under police investigation until the following year. Meanwhile, Thomashow was told that she did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a legitimate medical procedure.
After he was fired by USA Gymnastics, Nassar continued treating patients at Michigan State until he was finally arrested in December of 2016.
It is overwhelmingly clear that the priority of USA Gymnastics was to save face, and they almost pulled it off by paying Maroney to keep quiet. Had Maroney actually kept quiet and not taken to Twitter to publicly reveal that Nassar sexually assaulted her, it may have worked.
Again, had Maroney not taken to Twitter to publicly reveal that Nassar sexually assaulted her, would Raisman, Douglas, Biles and Wieber have still done so?
I would venture to guess that Maroney’s courage to not only publicly reveal that she was sexually assaulted by Nassar but to violate the terms of the non-disclosure agreement that she was forced to enter in doing so played some role in those other high-profile gymnasts revealing that Nassar has also sexually assaulted them.
Is Twitter still not an “appropriate” place to discuss sexual assault allegations? Imagine if Maroney would have not used it. These other high-profile gymnasts may have never revealed that Nassar had also sexually assaulted them.
The corruption of USA Gymnastics and Nassar’s other enablers may have never been exposed, at least not to the extent that it has been, especially by Maroney and Raisman. This scandal may have never gotten to the national spotlight like it did and like it needed to.
Is that really what we want? Is keeping sexual assault allegations off of Twitter really worth giving all of these things up for?
Aly Raisman said it best in her victim impact statement from Nassar’s sentencing hearing in January.
“We are here. We have our voices and we are not going anywhere.”
Twitter is a major part of their voices, and rightfully so in this day and age. There is no reason for them not to use it, especially in a situation as serious as the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal.
Should keeping these sexual assault allegations off of Twitter just because someone thinks that it is not an “appropriate” place to discuss them really be the priority here above all else, including the benefits that come with using it?
It certainly should not be, especially seeing what happened as a result of Maroney making her sexual assault allegations publicly known for the first time this past October by using twitter.
Whether the criticism comes over social media or in person, Nassar’s victims need to continue to ignore it and use their voices. And yes, that includes using them on Twitter regardless of whether or not someone thinks that it is not an “appropriate” place for them to do so.
Asher C. Fair
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