As the allegations surrounding Harvey Weinstein mounted several weeks ago, the hashtag #metoo began trending as a way for survivors of sexual abuse to share their own stories. It was sobering to see how many women (and men!) had been victimized in their lives but one story that made headlines came from Olympic star, McKayla Maroney.
Maroney, a member of the gymnastic Fierce Five team that dominated the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, claims that the team doctor, Larry Nassar, began molesting her when she was just 13 years old. Now 31, the former competitive athlete chose to bravely share her experience in hopes of shedding light on a serious issue.
“I was molested by Dr. Larry Nassar, the team doctor for the US Women’s National Gymnastics Team, and Olympic team,” Maroney wrote in the Twitter post. “It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was ‘treated.’”
While describing a particularly horrifying incident, Maroney says that Nassar gave her a sleeping pill on a flight during the 2011 World Championships but woke up in his hotel room later.
Driving the gravity and seriousness of the situation home, she added: “I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things that I had to endure to get there, were unnecessary, and disgusting. Sure, from the outside looking in, it’s an amazing story. I did it. I got there, but not without a price.”
Can you imagine? Parents do everything they can to support their children’s dreams, even separating from them for long periods of time hoping that the adults surrounding them also have their best interests at heart. Then, they find out that a trusted medical professional has been preying on their child for years. What a betrayal.
Aly Raisman, who was captain of the same medal-winning women’s gymnastics team in both 2012 and 2016, detailed the alleged abuse in her book, Fierce, explaining that she was first treated by Nassar when she was 15 years old.
Long distance swimmer, Diana Nyad, has also spoken about being sexually assaulted by a swim coach when she was 14 years old in an op-ed for the New York Times. While she did not identify the coach by name, she did say he was revered in the swimming community until his death in 2014. After years of abuse, she confided in a teammate when she was 21. Sadly, this friend claimed to have also been one of the coach’s victims.
Clearly, this is not an isolated issue and extends over time and across sports.
During an interview with 60 Minutes, Raisman said that after the Rio Olympics, she decided to speak to FBI investigators. When she was asked why she waited so long to speak up, she said, “Why are we looking at why didn’t the girls speak up? Why not look at what about the culture? What did USA Gymnastics do, and Larry Nassar do, to manipulate these girls so much that they are so afraid to speak up?”
In response, USA Gymnastics told 60 Minutes that they have adopted a “safe sport policy” that requires mandatory reporting of suspicions of sexual abuse and added, “USA Gymnastics is very sorry that any athlete has been harmed. We want to work with Aly and all interested athletes to keep athletes safe.”
Dr. Larry Nassar is currently in jail. He pleaded guilty to three counts of child pornography back in July 2017. He is scheduled to appear in federal court on December 7 where he faces 33 charges of criminal sexual conduct.