No More Silence

By Shelby Anderson

In a day and age where both women and men are coming forward about their personal experiences with sexual abuse, it is no surprise that both present and former members of the USA Gymnastics team have now come forward. Just like a domino effect; a few brave women had the courage to be bold enough to step forward and tell someone about their very painful experiences, now younger girls who have been facing the same struggles are empowered by their courage and decide to step forward as well.

Sexual assault is a problem that men and women alike have been facing for years. Something that used to be not as widely talked about, something not really publicly accepted as an appropriate conversation. But the problem is even more elevated here as the “women” that are being sexually abused, are in fact not women at all, they are highly talented athletic girls and young women, all who have been abused by someone they are supposed to be able to trust, their gym. While under circumstances a typical gymnast may not feel this connection with their gym but USAG, being a world renowned team of gymnasts, this ranch means a lot to these girls. This is where they practice, learn, get ready for olympic qualifiers, and even the Olympics. Dr. Larry Nassar has been in the media for awhile now, his name mentioned in hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits under the pretense of providing medical care for numerous members of the USA Gymnastics team. While facing these old cases, he is now facing several more allegations from girls who have recently come forward with new information. Aly Raisman, a well known Olympic gymnast who has also been both treated and sexually assaulted by Dr. Nassar, came forward to Today very recently and told her opinion about these allegations. Raisman believes that in order for the USA Gymnastics Team to regroup, they must solve this corruptness down to the core, although the idea of this has never been executed. She believes that every criminal act that has occurred under the USAG name must be discovered, taken care of, and the person who committed these crimes held responsible. As early as October of 2018 last year, Karolyi Ranch has become a spotlight for criminal activity. Steve Penny, former chief executive of Karolyi Ranch, was arrested on October 17th of last year under charges of tampering with evidence in the Larry Nassar case. When he heard that Texas Rangers were investigating allegations made against Larry Nassar, Penny removed and shredded sexual assault files in order to protect Nassar from the incriminating information within these reports. Since, Steve Penny resigned from his position as Chief Executive of Karolyi Ranch, and is now serving out his prison sentence. The rest of the Board of Directors at Karolyi Ranch also resigned in the wake of this scandal. According to Raisman the Ranch had a secret file for all of the sexual assault allegations, none of which were reported to authorities. Rather than getting these girls the justice they deserved, they were forced under a strict silence policy. Over the past two decades, some estimated 368 individuals, primarily minors, have been abused at some point in their athletic career at Karolyi Ranch eiter by gym owners, coaches, or staff working for gymnastics programs globally.

Beginning in 2016 more than 265 women, including former members of the USAG team;

Jamie Dantzscher, Morgan White, Jeanette Antolin, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Maggie Nichols, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Jordyn Wieber, Sabrina Vega, Ashton Locklear, Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian, Amanda Jetter, Tasha Schwikert, Mattie Larson, and Bailie Key have accused Nassar of varying sexual abuses, making this scandal one of the largest in sports history to date. Since these allegations, Nassar has been convicted of possessing/producing child pornography on which he will serve a 60 year sentence. Nassar has also since pleaded guilty to ten counts of first degree sexual assault. In January of 2018 Nassar was sentenced to an additional 40 to 175 years in prison, set to run consecutively after his first 60 year sentence. Two months after this sentencing he was sentenced to another 40 to 125 years in federal prison also to serve consecutively after his other two sentencings.

Many more coaches and staff members of Karolyi Ranch have also been convicted of being an accessory to sexual assault, due to their actions in both enabling sexual assault and also lacking in protection of the victims. Staff members found guilty of these crimes will also face jail time and restitution to hundreds of victims. Although Larry Nassar will be behind bars for the rest of his life, nothing will ever be able to take back his actions, and the gymnasts affected, will remember this for the rest of their lives. Time can help ease the pain of these crimes but it will never fully heal the wounds left by Nassar and other staff members.