When the "Me Too" movement sparked a firestorm of stories of sexual harassment and abuse, the world learned what most women already knew. Sexual abuse isn't rare. And far too often, it is covered up, with the perpetrator being protected while victims are left to languish.
Few stories have made that reality more clear than the uncovering of the years-long, widespread sexual abuse of young female athletes on the U.S. women's gymnastics team by the team's physician, Larry Nassar. The scope of his abuse is mind-blowing. The fact that it was happening all the time, behind the scenes, while the young women he was abusing were in the spotlight winning medal after medal, is shocking.
Now we're finding out how bad the investigations were, how these women were dismissed, ignored, and neglected, how investigators allowed the abuse to continue despite ample evidence that it was happening. That is simply enraging.
In emotional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman spoke frankly about what they experienced. Their stories deserve to be heard and their criticisms of the investigations need to be taken seriously.
Simone Biles took a moment to collect herself during her opening statement.
"I sit before you today to raise my voice so that no little girl must endure what I, the athletes at this table, and the countless others who needlessly suffered under Nassar's guise of medical treatment, which we continue to endure today," she said. "We suffered and continue to suffer, because no one at FBI, USAG, or the USOPC did what was necessary to protect us. We have been failed, and we deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports...
"A message needs to be sent: if you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough."
WATCH: Simone Biles (@simone_biles) complete opening statement. "This is the largest case of sexual abuse in the… https://t.co/pDuK71WGtX— CSPAN (@CSPAN)1631718308.0
McKayla Maroney was blunt in her assessment of what happened to her and offered a scathing rebuke of the FBI investigators. who she says falsified what she told them and "conceal Nassar's crimes from the public, the media, other law enforcement agencies, and most importantly, other victims."
"They chose to protect a serial child molester, rather than protect not only me but countless others," she said.
(Warning: Detailed descriptions of sexual abuse.)
Full opening statement: At Senate hearing, McKayla Maroney describes reporting abuse by Larry Nassar "in extreme de… https://t.co/6sLIO1GalM— NBC News (@NBC News)1631719969.0
Maggie Nichols' opening statement personalized her abuse: "I was named as Gymnast 2 in the Office of Inspector General's report and previously identified as Athlete A by USA Gymnastics. I want everyone to know that this did not happen to Gymnast 2 or to Athlete A. It happened to me, Maggie Nichols."
WATCH: @MagsGotSwag12 complete opening statement. "I want everyone to know that this didn't happen to Gymnast #2… https://t.co/Jg5NUMaKMG— CSPAN (@CSPAN)1631719022.0
Aly Raisman detailed what an abysmal failure the investigations into Nassar were, and shared her frustration that they are still seeking answers six years later.
"The FBI and others within both USAG and USOPC knew that Nassar molested children and did nothing to restrict his access," she said. "Steve Penny and any USAG employee could have walked a few steps to ﬁle a report with Indiana Child Protective Services, since they shared the same building.
"Instead they quietly allowed Nassar to slip out the side door, knowingly allowing him to continue his "work" at MSU, Sparrow Hospital, a USAG club, and even to run for school board. Nassar found more than 100 new victims to molest. It was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter."
WATCH: @Aly_Raisman complete opening statement. “Why must we speculate when the facts are obtainable and the stak… https://t.co/mf5i79po3b— CSPAN (@CSPAN)1631720370.0
Each of these women's testimonies matters. It takes strength and courage it takes to speak about abuse you've experienced in a public forum, much less to call out powerful institutions for their failures. Kudos to these fierce defenders of justice and protectors of children for sharing their stories and for attempting to ensure that the systems that failed them will not continue to allow harm to others.
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