These Women Took Back Their Lives By Confronting A Serial Predator

With so many negative stories in the news these days, we can sometimes become numb to the horrors being reported, and the pain and anguish experienced by the victims of crime.

One case, however, has garnered national attention because of the size and scope of the crime, and the tragic fact that so many young girls were targets of one predator.

The case is also notable for the way the judge allowed the victims to take part in bringing this monster to justice – giving at least some closure to their families and raising awareness to prevent this from ever occurring again.

 Café Mom reported:

On Wednesday, January 24, Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting young girls under his medical care. Gymnast McKayla Maroney came forward with viral allegations of abuse in October 2017, and more than 150 victims have spoken out. Over the course of the tumultuous court case, many mothers have revealed the horrific stories of how Nassar abused their girls right in front of them.

 Nearly all of the 150 women abused by Nassar revealed that the doctor used similar, pervasive tactics to get away with abusing them. The most common one centered around gaining the trust of their parents. His image as a trustworthy doctor and family man allowed him to get away with sexually assaulting girls for years, often in the presence of the girls’ parents.

 Nassar spent decades as the physician to the U.S. gymnastics team, in charge of physicals and treatment of injuries for prominent athletes in national and international competitions, as well as the Olympic games.

He worked out of the campus clinic at Michigan State University, in an office full of autographed photos of Olympic athletes.  With his confidence and arrogance, he lured young girls and their mothers into a twisted relationship of trust in which he was rarely questioned.

The judge in the case, Rosemarie Aquilina, opened her courtroom to dozens of young women and their families, giving the victims a chance to look Nassar in the eye and confront him about the abuse they suffered at his hands.

Many of the parents, especially mothers who would accompany the girls to appointments, have felt shame and regret at not knowing what was going on.

Judge Aquilina, however, was quick to reassure parents that an experienced predator like Nassar is often so cunning and devious that it is hard to pick up on any red flags.  By befriending the victims’ families, he established a relationship of trust that kept many of the young women from telling their parents what was going on.  And, unbelievably, some of the sexual abuse took place while these mothers were in the exam room with their daughters.

 Café Mom continued:

Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander told People magazine in 2017, “He would position himself in between my mom and I, so I could not see where his hands were. That was the dynamic that kept me quiet because I didn’t realize she couldn’t see [either]. The idea that someone could be sexually assaulting me for 30 minutes at a time while holding a conversation with my mother, nobody thinks that’s what assault looks like.”

 The Chicago Tribune reports that the mother of one 12-year-old victim testified that she confronted Nassar after her daughter mentioned feeling uneasy about Nassar’s lack of gloves during an exam. Instead of taking her concerns seriously, the doctor shut her down. “I questioned you about that, to which you answered in a way that made me feel stupid for asking,” she told Nassar during his trial. “I told myself, ‘He’s an Olympic doctor, be quiet.'”

 The mother says she also noticed that Nassar put her 12-year-old in positions that made her feel “uneasy.” Again, she confronted the doctor, who reacted by using his body to block the mother’s view of her daughter and continuing the “treatment.”

 Anne Swinehart, who claims Nassar began “physically, mentally, and emotionally” abusing her daughter, Jillian, when she was only 8, shared a similar story in court, according to the New York Times. In one particular instance, Swinehart recalled seeing her daughter grimace in pain while being treated by Nassar. In the aftermath, the mother realizes “that it was not a knotted muscle that was causing that.”

The parents of the victims mentioned having a gut feeling that something was odd about some of the doctor’s treatments.  But they did not want to interfere with their daughters’ dreams of becoming Olympic athletes, and Nassar’s authoritative demeanor kept them from pursuing the matter.

 “How is it that I misinterpreted your intent so wrongly?” one mother asked when confronting the doctor in court. “I wanted my daughter to get better, to achieve her dreams, to participate and succeed in a sport she loved.”

Judge Aquilina stated, “The red flags may have been there, but they were designed to be hidden.  I know how hard-core sports moms are.”  She also commented to the public:  “Quit shaming and blaming the parents,” she said. “Trust me, you would not have known. And you would not have done anything differently,” according to Café Mom.

Many of the young girls abused by Nassar left gymnastics altogether, and spiraled into a dark world of drugs, anxiety, and depression.  All of the victims still struggle with the emotional trauma caused by one predator who stole their childhood from them.

Nassar, 54, was sentenced to 40 – 175 years, on top of a 60-year sentence previously received for child pornography charges.  He will die in prison, which Judge Aquilina made sure to remind him of during sentencing, saying, “I just signed your death warrant.”

 Following the victims’ expressions of anger and outrage during the sentencing hearing, Nassar offered an apology to the families, and stated that his thoughts would be consumed by their words for the rest of his life.  But it is hard to believe that Nassar’s remorse is sincere when he spent his entire career preying on young girls.

While the victims and their families try to deal with the pain of reliving the abuse they suffered while testifying in court, the case has also cast a shadow over the sport of gymnastics and Michigan State University where the abuse took place.  MSU President Lou Anna Simon and Athletic Director Mark Hollis have both resigned over allegations that they should have known what was going on and taken action.

Many of the victims have stated that facing Nassar in court and seeing justice served in his sentence have given them at least some sense of comfort and closure.  However, the impact caused by this predator will have a lasting effect on everyone involved.

What do you think of the outcome of this case?  Do you think the sentence and the reaction of the university are enough?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments.

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