On this date in 2017: McKayla Maroney opens the floodgates on Larry Nassar

Photo Credit: Radar Online

On Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 2012 Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney shared a tweet containing an image of a message, a message that changed everything.

The then 21-year-old Aliso Viejo, California native publicly revealed that she had been sexually assaulted on multiple occasions by Larry Nassar, the then 54-year-old disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University physician.

Here is a picture of this message she posted on her Twitter account, which has since been deleted as a result of the fact that she periodically deactivates her social media accounts. Her Twitter account has not been active since Sunday, August 5.

DMZwcu5X0AA7wCV.jpg

Maroney, who was a part of the gold medal-winning United States Olympic women’s gymnastics team dubbed the “Fierce Five” and earned a silver medal for her performance in the women’s vault final, which resulted in her making her now-famous “Not Impressed” face on the podium, was not the first person to publicly reveal that she was sexually assaulted by Nassar.

In fact, the scandal had been at least somewhat in the eye of the public ever since Rachael Denhollander became the first person to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault when she took her story to The Indianapolis Star before it was published in September of 2016.

However, up until Maroney publicly revealed that she was sexually assaulted by Nassar, the Nassar scandal was going virtually undiscussed by the media and thus by the public.

She changed that.

When Maroney made this revelation, she became the first household name to do so. At this point, the floodgates were truly blown open, and serious attention finally started being paid to this scandal, which is arguably the biggest sexual assault scandal not only in sports but in anything of all-time.

Nassar has been accused of sexually assaulting more than 330 individuals, many of whom female gymnasts, under the guise of medical treatment for more than two decades.

Two of Maroney’s “Fierce Five” teammates, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, who were also members of the 2016 United States Olympic women’s gymnastics team dubbed the “Final Five”, proceeded to publicly reveal in November of 2017 that Nassar had also sexually assaulted them.

Simone Biles, a teammate to Raisman and Douglas on the “Final Five”, publicly revealed in January of 2018 that Nassar has also sexually assaulted her. Jordyn Wieber, a teammate to Maroney, Raisman and Douglas on the “Fierce Five”, proceeded to do so just days later.

As a result, five of the eight gymnasts who were members of the 2012 United States Olympic women’s gymnastics team or the 2016 United States Olympic women’s gymnastics team had accused Nassar of sexual assault.

Several months later in August, that five grew to seven in a split-second. Kyla Ross, a member of the “Fierce Five”, and Madison Kocian, a member of the “Final Five”, publicly revealed that they, too, had been sexually assault by Nassar.

All five of the “Fierce Five” had now publicly revealed that they were sexually assaulted by Nassar, and four of the “Final Five” had also done so.

I’m not saying that had Maroney not publicly revealed that Nassar sexually assaulted her, none of the others would have. We have no way of knowing that, as Maroney was, in fact, the first of these seven girls to do so, and nothing will ever change that.

But what we do know is that it was Maroney who really got the ball rolling back on this date last year by publicly revealing the horrible things that she was forced to endure at the hands of the sexual predator who is Larry Nassar.

And not only do we know that she deserves a ton of credit for being able to gather the courage and strength to do so, especially given the prospect of the inevitable criticism that she has faced ever since, but we know that she needed extra courage and strength to do so.

Roughly two months after making her earth-shattering accusation, Maroney revealed that she had been forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement with USA Gymnastics to keep quiet about her abuse and the agreement itself. She made this revelation when she filed a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic Committee and Michigan State, Nassar’s key protectors, defenders and enablers.

Maroney was paid $1.25 million to keep quiet about Nassar’s sexual assault, but she spoke up about it anyway.

However, USA Gymnastics denied trying to silence her. Here is what their statement on the matter said, according to ESPN.

“USA Gymnastics has not sought and will not seek any money from McKayla Maroney for her brave statements made in describing her victimization and abuse by Larry Nassar, nor for any victim impact statements she wants to make to Larry Nassar at this hearing or at any subsequent hearings related to his sentencing.

“This has been her right and USA Gymnastics encourages McKayla and anyone who has been abused to speak out. USA Gymnastics remains focused on our highest priority — the safety, health and well-being of our athletes and creating a culture that empowers and supports them.”

However, John Manly, Maroney’s attorney, had this to say about the matter, according to ESPN.

“They say McKayla has ‘always had the right to speak.’ Not true. Under the [agreement’s] terms she could not speak in court unless subpoenaed. She could not even have her statement read without fear of a lawsuit against her by USAG. A victim impact statement is a voluntary act. It’s not a subpoena.

“Let’s be clear. The only reason this statement was issued is because people were outraged at USAG’s behavior toward Ms. Maroney and her family. So outraged that people were kindly offering to pay the six figure USAG penalty so McKayla could speak. Everyday Americans get that no one should be silenced about child molestation. This is especially true when the abused is a young athlete who competed in the Olympic Games for our Country and brought honor and dignity to our nation. It is truly sad that USA Gymnastics and the USOC didn’t and don’t get it. They have no choice to relent because the cleansing sunlight of truth is shining upon them and they can no longer hide their misdeeds.”

The fact that Maroney faced faced the threat of $100,000 fine for speaking out about the sexual assault that she was forced to endure at Nassar’s hands pretty much proved that her silence had, in fact, been paid for.

Model Chrissy Teigen offered to pay this fine for Maroney before USA Gymnastics stated that Maroney would not be fined for speaking out about the matter.

Here is what Maroney had to say about Teigen’s offer, according to Sports Illustrated.

“I’m not on social media right now, but I wish I was for this! I’m shocked by your generosity, and I just want you to know how much hope your words bring to all of us! I just can’t get over the fact that someone I don’t personally know is sticking up for me, let alone a strong woman that I’ve looked up to for years!

“Thank you Chrissy, you’re so inspiring, and things are starting to change because of people like you! Just saying that was worth the decision to speak up regardless of a fine. You’re heart pure gold. God bless. All my love, McKayla”

Maroney’s victim impact statement was read during Nassar’s January sentencing hearing in Ingham County, Michigan, which will be discussed in more detail below. It was read on her behalf by Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis.

Aside of this, however, Maroney has not been all that outspoken about what happened to her. She did speak during a luncheon for the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children at The Pierre hotel in New York, New York on Tuesday, April 17, marking the first time she spoke publicly about what she was forced to endure.

Maroney was also interviewed for a Dateline NBC hourlong special called “Silent No More”, which aired on Sunday, April 22 just five days after she spoke publicly about being sexually assaulted by Nassar. If you haven’t yet seen it, it is definitely worth an hour of your time to watch.

Nassar, meanwhile, is set to spend the rest of his life in prison. He was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison back in December on three child pornography charges by U.S. District Judge Janet Neff.

Nassar was serving this prison sentence at United States Penitentiary, Tucson, a maximum-security federal prison in Tucson, Arizona, before his lawyers revealed that he was physically assaulted within hours of his release into the general population of the prison.

Weeks later, he was transferred to the Federal Transfer Center, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and he was recently transferred to United States Penitentiary, Coleman II, a high-security federal prison for male inmates that is located in central Florida roughly 50 miles northwest of Orlando, 60 miles northeast of Tampa and 35 miles south of Ocala.

In January, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar to between 40 and 175 years in state prison on seven sexual assault charges following a seven-day sentencing hearing in Ingham County, Michigan during which 169 victim impact statements were delivered in front of Nassar in court.

Of those 169 victim impact statements, 156 were delivered by people who have accused Nassar of sexual assault and the other 13 were delivered on the behalves of those who have accused him of sexual assault. As stated earlier in this article, Maroney is one of Nassar’s accusers whose victim impact statement was delivered on her behalf.

In February, Judge Janice Cunningham sentenced Nassar between an additional 40 and 125 more years in state prison on three more sexual assault charges following a three-day sentencing hearing in Eaton County, Michigan during which 65 victim impact statements were delivered in front of Nassar in court.

The father of three of Nassar’s accusers attempted to attack Nassar in court during this sentencing hearing.

In June, Nassar was charged with six counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child in stemming from the Károlyi Ranch investigation in Texas, but he was not issued any additional prison time as a result of these charges.

 

-Asher Fair

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