The media is broadcasting a story about Dr. Larry Nassar (a former U.S. Gymnastics team physician) of abusing over 100 young girls. From the testimonials and evidence, it appears Dr. Nassar has been a long-time serial sexual predator of young girls from age six to college students.
He was integral to the success of many of our female gymnasts.
The high profile confrontations of the older and now matured girls were heart-wrenching to watch. How does it happen that someone can be a sexual predator for over two decades without someone exposing his activities?
A predator works in secret.
It is important to realize a predator who has power, charisma and opportunity while having control of his victims is able to maintain such constancy of abusive behavior.
Significantly, Dr. Nassar was suspected early in his career. Yet, the young girls he abused who tried to speak up were not taken seriously by the key individuals in their life. More upsetting to me was that the few parents who suspected something not right was occurring did not pursue more details.
As a physician working with young girls in his practice, or with sports injuries in the environments where there were so many young females, Dr. Nassar was able to maintain a regular routine of sexual abuse. The authority of his being a physician went unquestioned by parents and by these young girls.
It appears also that Dr. Nassar seems very nurturing in his approach. So, this kind of environment granted him access to “prey.” In fact, it is a prime example of a predator who intentionally created situations where he could continue his abuse under the cover of medical care.
It has been important for these girls to be able to speak out as they have.
It is both therapeutic and grievous for them and their families.
For the public, there is a horror in it that shatters our trust in those who care for our young girls.
I would never want to give the impression that anyone who has power, access and charisma is necessarily an abuser.
Most health professionals and trainers are great people who genuinely care for those they are working with.
However, I think it is important parents, coaches and caregivers have their radar on high alert, particularly when there needs to be regular treatment for our young athletes.
It is important to give our young girls permission to speak openly about their experiences without shame or reprisal. It is also important to tell their friends if they hear anything inappropriate they need to tell a trustworthy adult immediately.
Dr. Nassar’s abuse reinforces our sense of vigilance about protecting our young girls. We must stay mindful and provide an extra layer of safety to keep them from the life-damaging impact of sexual abuse from the very people who are responsible to care for their needs.
We never want to see tragedies like this continue to devastate the lives of our young girls.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO
Donald Mirale/Sports Illustrated (https://www.si.com/olympics/2017/11/10/aly-raisman-sexual-abuse-larry-nassar)