On Jan. 24, the verdict sentencing Larry Nassar for up to 175 years in prison was finally announced. After hearing the statements from over 150 women Nassar sexually abused, justice was finally served. This powerful and timely seven-day trial proves to be a true inspiration to those who have dealt with or currently are dealing with abuse.
It was reported that Nassar had been sexually abusing his young gymnast patients during their doctor appointments for about two decades. The silence of these survivors finally started to come to an end in August 2016 when Rachel Denhollander teamed up with the newspaper The Indianapolis Star, telling the world of Nassar’s mistreatment.
After this article was released, a flood of other female athletes admitted to the same abuse from Nassar in detailed statements. Most notably, 2012 summer Olympic gold-medalist, McKayla Maroney, shared a post on Twitter about her experiences with Nassar starting at the age of 13, followed by #MeToo.
During the trial, 156 women testified against Nassar and publicly and directly addressed the physical, emotional and mental pain he had caused them. One gymnast, Mattie Larson, said she had to quit gymnastics because of him and that he “turned the sport [she] fell in love with as a kid into [her] personal living hell.” Another woman, Isabell Hutchins, said “you were never a real doctor, you did not heal me. You only hurt me.”
While all 156 testimonies included how hurt they were from the countless times he abused them, they all spoke about how much stronger they were than him. Aly Raisman, another 2012 summer Olympics team member, said to him, “Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such an extended period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing.” Kyle Stephens’ powerful testimony included, “… Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.” The brave women that decided to speak out against Nassar’s sexual abuse formed an army and showed the world that sexual abuse survivors are not alone.
Nassar wrote a plea to the judge in hopes that it would sway her into believing that he did not sexually abuse anyone. He used arguments along the lines of, if I was sexually abusing them, why would the girls have kept going back to him for medical help. He also said that “the media convinced them that everything [he] did was wrong and bad…”
Nassar continued to write that the testimony accounts were “fabricated” to “sensationalize” the situation, and if he did not plead “not guilty,” he would have been forced to go to trial. Ironically, he said he was the one being manipulated. These are all forms of victim blaming, which Judge Rosemarie Aquilina and the rest of the courtroom dismissed.
This emotion-fueled hearing showed us the power behind speaking out against abusers. Individually, these women felt alone and powerless, but together they were able to take down Nassar and take back the power he took from them once and for all.
It’s overdue trials like these that help empower movements, such as “Times Up” and “Me Too,” and victims of abuse to finally come forward and receive the justice they deserve. Hopefully, this trial inspires survivors to continue to reveal the predators lurking around us and inspire all of us to listen to what they have to say.