A GOLD MEDAL FOR THE GYMNASTS
Dr. Larry Nassar, physician for United States Olympics and Michigan State University, pleaded guilty in November2017 to sexual molestation of female gymnasts over more than 10 years, some as young as 13. His trial is in the final stages and the judge, Rosemarie Aquilina, has allowed his victims, numbering well over 100, to give personal impact statements in the courtroom before she delivers final sentencing to Nassar. The statements have already taken more than three days as victims come forward and speak their peace.
This trial, and especially the victim-impact statements, has been somewhat underreported, although it has received generous coverage on ESPN. Today, January 19, 2018, I heard excerpts from several statements on an excellent ESPN show called “Outside the Lines,” hosted by Bob Ley.
I was astounded and awe-struck, listening to these young women excoriating not only Nassar, but also others who were complicit in varying degrees of hush-hush, along the lines of the Jerry Sandusky-Penn State molestation case. Officials of the United States Olympic Committee, and the current President of Michigan State University, Lou Anna Simon, were singled out by several of the victims for shameful cover-up efforts that neglected the victims of Nasser’s heinous actions while “treating” young female gymnasts for injuries.
Why have I been astounded and awe-struck by these young women delivering their statements? For one thing they are remarkable statements of personal courage, honesty, confidence, controlled anger, and empowerment. Never have I heard such perfect examples of what it means to cope with adversity.
These women looked directly at their tormentor, who usually looked down, unable to match their courage, and said things like, “You are learning that kids grow up to be strong women who can destroy your world.” “I used to consider myself a victim, but now I am a survivor.” “We are the voice. We have the power now.” “We are a force and you are nothing.” “How dare you ask any of us for forgiveness?” Directing a comment at the MSU President, one strong woman said, “Guess what? You’re a coward, too.”
From a psychological perspective, can you imagine being 13-years old and having a trusted medical professional violate you on the examining table? Can you imagine the challenge these 100+ women have already faced, and will continue to face? Can you imagine how hard it was for them to write their impact statements and deliver them in a court of law while being recorded for the record? To call these women strong is probably an understatement for the ages. They are role models for what it means to face adversity that challenges self-identity, one’s emotional core, and the ability to resist the inevitable question, “Was it my fault?” I hope many of these young women deliver their message of survival and coping to young people around the country. Their stories are inspirational.
When I was listening to these women give their statements I thought, “I need a blog post about this coping strength, but how can I ever find the words to convey their power?” I have decided the best I can do is say, “What these women are doing is precisely what my wife and I raised our two daughters to be able to do.” These women gymnasts have set an extremely high bar! Remember them the next time you fear facing a challenge.