This Live Stream of Gymnasts Describing Their Sexual Assault In Court Is Hard to Watch but Incredibly Important

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More than 150 victims are getting their days in court—facing their abuser, former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar—as they address him and what he did to them.

I find it incredibly difficult and painful to watch the live stream, but that’s the point: what was done to these women, some of whom have said the abuse began when they were children, was beyond horrific. As they share their stories (which are being officially collected by the court as victim impact statements), a further narrative and condemnation emerges of all of the adults that were complicit for years in Nassar’s abuse, ignoring reports about his actions and perpetuating a victim-blaming mentality.

Nassar is facing 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with victims as young as 6 years old, and to federal child pornography charges. The victims’ statements could add years to Nassar’s jail term as Judge Rosemarie Aquilina deliberates sentencing, with Nassar made to face his victims as they address him one by one.

Some of Nassar’s victims include gymnasts that have become household names after their Olympic accomplishments, like Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, and McKayla Maroney.

In her 13-minute impact statement last week, Raisman did not mince her words, addressing Nassar directly: “You do realize now the women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time are now a force, and you are nothing.” Per Deadspin, Raisman continued:

For this sport to go on, we need to demand real change, and we need to be willing to fight for it. It’s clear now that if we leave it up to these organizations, history is likely to repeat itself.

Now is the time to acknowledge that the very person who sits before us now—who perpetrated the worst epidemic of sexual abuse in the history of sports, who is going to be locked up for a long, long time—this monster was also the architect of policies and procedures that are supposed to protect athletes from sexual abuse for both USA Gymnastics and the USOC.

There are many calls, including Raisman’s, for a deeper investigation by USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee into how Nassar’s abuse was allowed to continue for so long. These young women were assaulted for decades by the monstrous Nassar, but the betrayal of other adults who would have had it in their power to stop the abuse and did not deserve to have these impact statements read to them as well. As ESPN reports:

Nassar was surrounded by a collection of adults who enabled his predatory behavior — a group that included coaches of club, collegiate and elite-level gymnasts, the USA Gymnastics organization, medical professionals, administrators and coaches at Michigan State University, and gymnasts’ parents, whom he groomed just as effectively as those he violated.

It’s immensely powerful to watch these stories being told by the people they happened to, even if their experiences are wrenching to hear: for the first time these young women get to completely control the narrative where Nassar is concerned.

It’s rare that the public gets to watch high-profile victim impact statements, let along 150 of them. I believe that it’s important for the public to hear directly from the victims in this instance. Their bravery is remarkable, and it deserves an audience.

(Livestream via Law & Crime, image: screengrab)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.