"How much is a little girl worth?" The story of 150 young women who were not heard
The sentencing to 175 years in prison to Dr. Larry Nassar has put on the table the reality of child sexual abuse off the red carpet.
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During these last few days, social media has been filled with stories about the US gymnastics team and the countless list of girls and young women who were repeatedly sexually abused by the Olympic team doctor for decades.
Some consider that this phenomenon is part of the wave of complaints originated by the Weinstein Effect, the #MeToo movement, and its collateral #TIMESUP, but it was not until the statements of the young women became viral, that someone finally paid attention.
Larry Nassar, a former doctor at Michigan State University, was accused by more than 150 women of sexual abuse, and several of those accusations have been shelved in the courts for years, because no one believed the testimonies of a girl and because the prestige and reputation of an empowered white man were more powerful.
Until Wednesday - when Judge Rosemarie Aquilina became a celebrity for her handling of the case - few media had paid attention to the case, which had grazed headlines with little force.
But the blame lies not only in the depravity of Nasser but in the dozens of people in the USAG, in the MSU, in the United States Olympic Committee and in the Twistars Gymnastics training center, who repeatedly ignored, discarded and omitted the accusations against their treating doctor.
The responsibility also falls on us, the media, who have sinned in pursuing the stories that are becoming trends and overlooked the suffering and urgency of individuals like these 150 girls, who should’ve been heard in time.
Between 1997 and 2016, many gymnasts reported Nassar's behavior, and they faced the disbelief of their parents, coaches, and managers, who forced them to return to the torture clinic. And when one of the cases went to court, the panels of doctors responsible for determining whether or not there was sexual abuse turned out to be friends of Nassar and the cases ended up getting cold.
Kristine Moore (administrator of the university), Lianna Hadden and Destiny Teachnor-Hauk (coaches) and even the president of the MSU, Lou Anna Simon were, one way or another, accomplices in perpetuating Nasser's conduct against 150 women, and up until today, they haven’t been accountable for the facts.
Although Simon resigned from office this week, and despite the fact that Nassar will live the rest of his days behind bars, the case of the Olympic Survivors questions everything we have discussed in recent months about the vindication of victims of sexual and power abuse.
Where were we all? Why didn’t anyone believe them?
Hashtags, public letters, demonstrations at luxury events or mass protests are useless if 150 girls faced the maximum representation of the evil we fight against, by themselves.
Traditionally, cases of sexual abuse didn’t achieve as much media receptivity until the Harvey Weinstein case. As Lindsay Gibbs (ThinkProgress columnist) explains, "when a sexual-assault scandal happens somewhere less exalted than college football, it’s a different story.”
It took the courage shared by 150 women to achieve a change; it was necessary to broadcast live the most important speeches in the fight against sexual abuse in decades so that someone would finally listen.
"How much is a little girl worth? How much is a young woman worth?" Asked Rachael Denhollander - the first woman to publicly accuse Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. After the final vindication of her years of torture, anguish, and suffering, Denhollander was finally able to say "We are here now and today. That message can be sent with the sentence you hand down. You can communicate to all these little girls and to every predator to every little girl or young woman who is watching how much a little girl is worth.”