I'm Disgusted With the USA Gymnastics Board

They knew.

For years, the USA Gymnastics Board was aware of allegations of sexual misconduct against Dr. Larry Nassar, a former doctor for USA Gymnastics and professor of sports medicine at Michigan State University. They knew that the mental and emotional lives of young women were at stake. The allegations were so sweeping in scale they had every reason to launch a full investigation on their own.

Instead, they did nothing. And dozens more innocent young women became victims.

How Much Did the USA Gymnastics Board Know?

At Nassar's sentencing, multiple victims noted in their victim impact statements that the USA Gymnastics Board was informed of Nassar's abuse; however, the board chose to do nothing in response.

Sure, in March of this past year, USA Gynmastics President Steve Penney resigned. But by the time the governing board began grappling with allegations of sexual abuse, the damage had already been done to over 150 young women.

As of now, all members of the USA Gymnastics Board have tendered their resignation for failing to take action in the wake of the Nassar conviction. But they are only doing so because they have been forced to by the Olympics Committee, an organization that has also come under fire.

But the damage done by the message sent to so many that sexual abuse allegations take a back seat to an organization’s reputation won't so easily be healed or forgotten.

The Effects of Sexual Abuse Left Unacknowledged

At the sentencing hearing, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman not only castigated Dr. Nassar, but USA Gymnastics as well.Her powerful statement included, “Over those 30 years when survivors came forward, adult after adult, many in positions of authority, protected you, telling each survivor it was O.K., that you weren’t abusing them. In fact, many adults had you convince the survivors that they were being dramatic or had been mistaken. This is like being violated all over again.”

Indeed, victims of sexual assault and abuse are routinely victimized a second time when they choose to come forward, and this can leave psychological scars as painful as those stemming from the original assault.

When survivors of sexual assault come forward, above all, they need support, and they need belief. When this is not received, survivors may begin to doubt whether they did the right thing by coming forward, or even whether or not what they felt was abuse even constituted an attack. Suddenly swimming in a sea of doubt, many survivors chose not to push the issue, but to simply remain silent.

And this silence has its costs. Silence magnifies the guilt, the shame and the blame the victim feels about the attack; only by giving voice to one's experiences can true healing begin. Furthermore, when additional survivors come to the surface, those who tried to report their abuse unsuccessfully may feel incredibly guilty that their silence – even if the silence was not their fault – caused future victims to suffer the same abuse they had.

The blame, of course, lies solely with the abuser and those in positions of power surrounding the abuser that have excused the criminal behavior.

Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse often face serious relationship issues due to the shattered sense of trust that surrounds acts of childhood sexual abuse. When this is further compounded by being met with disbelief when they reported the abuse, they may feel that nowhere is safe and that there is no one they can fully trust.

Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse suffer for their entire lives as a result. In particular, females are at a higher risk of going on to develop substance abuse problems and eating disorders. Abuse survivors also pose a higher suicide risk than those who were not abused. These mental health issues impact every area of the survivor's life. It may even lead to survivors tragically ending their own lives.

So no. Given the incredibleimpact that childhood sexual abuse has on its innocent victims I will not forgive USA Gymnastics any more than Judge Rosemarie Aquilina showed forgiveness towards Nassar. I will not give the Olympics Committee a free pass, either. Until organizations such as these start opening up about their complicity in hiding sexual abuse, they only aid in the problem of delegitimizing the serious implications of sexual abuse against women and girls.  

More about the author

About the author

Born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Kate Harveston is a recent college graduate and an aspiring journalist. She enjoys writing about social change and human rights issues, but she has written on a wide variety of other topics as well.

She blogs on social and cultural issues at  Only Slightly Biased.

Follow Kate on Twitter.

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