The Flip Side of Gymnastics

“It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again.” On Wednesday, January 24th, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s words rang out across the courtroom, condemning a former USA Gymnastics doctor to prison ranging from 45 to 175 years. According to Fox News, after a seven-day trial, Dr. Larry Nassar was charged with sexually assaulting young female athletes and thus pleaded guilty to assaulting seven people in the Lansing, Michigan, area between 1998 and 2015. Additionally, he was sentenced to sixty years in prison for child pornography crimes and waits until next week for a trial regarding assault in Eaton County, Michigan.    

Fifty-four year-old Larry Nassar was working at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics where he trained young girls. According to a prosecutor, Nassar claimed gymnastics was a “perfect place” for his sick acts and even considered himself a “god” within the world of gymnastics, clearly taking advantage of his medical profession. Furthermore, Nassar apparently assaulted the girls in the same room as their parents and sometimes even used a sheet to shield his perverted actions. Many of the accusers were children at the time, therefore unaware of what Nassar was really doing to them.

Over the seven-day trial, more than one-hundred and fifty victims testified against Nassar, including renowned U.S. Olympic gymnasts Mckayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and Simone Biles. All four athletes reported Nassar touching them sexually with his bare hands as they waited to be treated for injuries. On Friday, January 19th, Raisman delivered a nearly thirteen minute statement against Nasser. She said, “Larry, you do realize that this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time are now a force and you are nothing.” Clearly, Raisman was referencing the multitude of violated but now empowered women accusing Nassar of his detestable crimes against them.

When the hearing ended this past Wednesday, the courtroom erupted into cheers over justice against Nassar. However, before Nassar was sentenced, he said the words against him had “shaken me to my core.” He also said, “I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days.”

This devastating scandal has brought more awareness to sexual assault, as confirmed by the following words of prosecutor Angela Povilaitis: “What does it say about our society that victims of sexual abuse have to hide their pain for years when they did nothing wrong?” As these gymnasts uncover their smothered torment, we as Christians are reminded of a world aching with depravity and unrighteousness. While we might not be able to relate to these women, we can certainly stand alongside any victim of sexual abuse and listen to them as they try to process unspeakable tragedies, mourn a loss of innocence, and cry out for safety and peace. Over and over again, God has proven His faithfulness and has assured us in His Word He will make all things new; however, we must not deny the need to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).