Strong women leaders of the #MeToo movement took center stage at the 2018 ESPY Awards, an event that recognizes excellence in athletics. While most of the show distinguishes professional athletes for performance in their sports, special awards recognize courage off the field.
Arthur Ashe Courage Award recipients “possess strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs.” This year’s group of honorees possess a strength that is difficult to put into words. Their courage is in the face of peril that began when many of them were children. They are an army of survivors who believe in each other and finally in themselves.
In January, a judge sentenced Michigan State University osteopath and USA Gymnastics Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar to 175 years in prison. Nassar is a convicted pedophile who used his position of power to prey on young women for decades, under the guise of medical treatment. We know he is guilty, we know what he did, and his story is unworthy of our attention. Now is the time to validate his survivors by bringing them the justice they deserve.
“Abuse, silence, victory. Abuse, silence, victory,” a phrase repeated before hundreds of survivors stood on stage. These uncomfortable words described the vicious cycle that allowed for decades of sexual abuse. We believe this toxic environment at MSU and USA Gymnastics prioritized medals and reputation over the health and safety of young women and girls.
Two women say they reported their abuse to MSU gymnastics but were quickly dismissed. This was in 1997, before some survivors were born. If the young women did alert trusted adults who took their claims seriously over 20 years ago, this story would be different. “Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this nightmare is that it could have been avoided,” said Olympian Aly Raisman on stage. “All we needed was one adult.”
So many survivors of sexual assault feel powerless to ask for help or identify their abuser. If the perpetrator has status or a position of influence, the pressure to remain silent can be overwhelming. In light of the #MeToo movement, people in power are beginning to use their own voices to represent silenced victims. “The Silence Breakers” of the #MeToo movement were TIME Magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year Cover. At the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, Hollywood celebrities dressed in black in solidarity with the victims of Harvey Weinstein. Now the ESPYs have acknowledged hundreds of sexual abuse survivors.
The only other mention we will make of Larry Nassar comes from a quick search of his name online. He was once called a prominent osteopathic doctor and outstanding leader in sports medicine. Now, if you search this disgraced abuser’s name, you see the following:
“An American convicted serial child molester who was the USA Gymnastics national team doctor and an osteopathic physician at Michigan State University.”
We owe this entirely to the brave young women who took their voice back and are continuing to come forward. We echo the words of the women on stage at the ESPYs: “Your truth does matter, you matter, and you are not alone.”
If you think you may have been sexually assaulted you can find support online at rainn.org or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673). To find out what legal options you have, we are here to answer your questions. All conversations and meetings are confidential and will not cost you anything. Whether or not you decide to file a claim is entirely up to you.
You can reach attorney Melissa Hague any time at our offices by calling 484-344-5850 or contact her by filling out the form below and she will respond to your message within 24 hours. All calls and information provided on the below form are strictly confidential between you and Melissa.
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