After several phone calls, text messages, and in-person questions, I feel it is necessary to share my thoughts on this latest scandal—a scandal that should be heard and seen by everyone—to stop it from ever happening again.
As I have watched and listened to countless brave and strong women stand in court to confront and publicize their horrific, personal, and life-altering experiences related to a sick man, Larry Nassar, I have an array of feelings.
First, and foremost, my heart goes out to each and every one of the 160 (and I’m sure more) innocent victims who were sexually assaulted and taken advantage of for this sick man’s pleasure. Fortunately, and unfortunately, childhood experiences shape who we are and who we become. Often, we feel their effects years after the fact. These women who loved their sport, strived to succeed and aspired to perform their best have detailed their emotional and physical obstacles since being sexually assaulted: anxiety, depression, fear, and stress, sleeplessness and other issues that plagued them for years.
Larry Nassar “left scars on their psyches that may never go away.” —McKayla Maroney, a 2012 Olympic gold and silver medalist. Maddie Johnson said, “For the longest time, you deprived me of my happiness. Because of you, every time I hear someone call me, ‘Kiddo,’ I think of the face you made when you were abusing me.”
Secondly, for someone who does not do well keeping up with the news, I have not been able to put down my phone to stop reading the most recent articles related to this Nassar scandal. Maybe it’s because of the admiration I feel from the power and strength these women are exhibiting—actually applauding them for their statements; maybe it’s the respect I have for who they are and what they are fighting for; and, maybe because this entire outrage hits so close to home.
I played women’s soccer at Michigan State University from 2002-2005. According to the timeline of Nassar’s violations, I was a student-athlete while he was a part of the faculty at Michigan State, where he had taught and practiced medicine since 1997 — meaning he wasn’t only a renowned sports physician but also part of an academic institution. In fact, my best friend shadowed him when she was interested in pursuing sports medicine.
While at Michigan State, I was diagnosed with a significant eating disorder which required me to seek medical care and treatment within the athletic department regularly. All I keep thinking is: what if he, also, was the head physician for women’s soccer?
Luckily, for me, he was not. But for these other 160 women and girls—many of who competed during the same years I did—I can’t help but feel great empathy when I see anguish in the eyes of those who were molested in the guise of medical treatment.
Though my eating disorder at Michigan State didn’t compare the least to what these women have experienced, I will continue to do my part to empower young girls to be strong, confident, and audacious when it comes to their values, beliefs, and senses related to health, happiness, and safety.
And, after sentencing Larry Nassar to 175 years in prison, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina had a message for him saying, “it is my honor and privilege to sentence you.” Well, my message to these survivors of sexual assault: it is my honor and privilege to be a part of a generation where women, like yourselves, represent strength, bravery, respect, and leadership. You have all taken your negative experiences and turned them into positive life lessons, and, for that, I say, “Thank you.”