Shut up and let’s heal

Helpful Dr. Larry

When Dr. Larry Nassar pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct last week in Michigan, he was facing 7 counts. Three of the crimes were against girls under 13, the rest against girls between 13 and 15. Nassar was an osteopathic physician seeing patients – rising gymnasts – through USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and the Twistars gymnastics club. He was an Olympics team physician. He regularly and repeatedly molested girls under the guise of treatment.

He’s scheduled to be sentenced in January, and additional victims are to be allowed to speak about the impact of his actions against them. Because there are more who’ve come forward. ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN of them. Even more are speaking up now that it’s all in the open. Some have been encouraged by the attention given to the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

The number of his crimes and the many years during which he got away with it are horrifying. In court, he asked if he could make a statement. The word “sorry” appeared. Would that apology help?

Oh hell no.

Nassar said he was pleading guilty to help the community heal. He seemed to want credit.

I think this is important, what I’ve done today to help move the community forward and away from the hurting, let the healing start….

For all those involved, I’m so horribly sorry that this was like a match that tuned into a forest fire, out of control. And I pray the rosary every day for forgiveness… I want them to heal. I want this community to heal. I have no animosity toward anyone. I just want healing…. We need to move forward in a sense of growth and healing and I pray for that. It’s time.

Prayerful Dr. Larry.

As one young athlete said afterward, “I do not buy his apology, I don’t accept it, I don’t think it’s real at all.” Another, Rachael Denhollander, said, “He will take every opportunity to shift the attention back onto himself to try to make himself look less evil than he really is.” One athlete’s mother eloquently tweeted “You hold no animosity?!?!? …Fuck You.”

They’re absolutely right. It’s a horrible, horrible apology. Nassar portrays himself as the noble initiator of healing. But he didn’t initiate anything. He didn’t turn himself in. When accused over the years, he denied everything. He has been an agent not of healing, but of great harm, all along. He is not entitled to congratulate himself for “[doing] something important to help.”

It’s also ridiculous to praise himself for having “no animosity” toward people he hurt. Why would he have animosity? Because they told the truth about what he did to them? Does he, can he, imagine them saying ‘I’m so glad Dr. Nassar’s not mad at us!’?

He also wins no points for portraying himself as a helpless forest fire victim. “Out of control”? He had too much control, that’s what let him get away with it. He started the fires himself, day after day, year after year. Decade after decade.

Important Dr. Larry.

I’m not sure who cares about his prayers. Maybe the organizations who let him get away with these crimes for years – do they care how prayerful he is?

Michigan State University spent years ignoring, brushing off, or quieting complaints about Nassar, according a timeline put together by the Indianapolis Star, which broke this story. A cursory investigation (aka whitewash) in 2014, which cleared Nassar, said he should have a third party present when he examined patients. He didn’t. They never checked. MSU has been keeping the results of their own investigations secret.

USA Gymnastics enabled Nassar until 2015, when an internal investigation caused them to fire him and contact the FBI. Recently, they gave a statement to 60 Minutes, talking about new policies on reporting sexual abuse and on contact between adults and athletes. With a bystander’s-regret type apology:

USA Gymnastics is very sorry that any athlete was harmed by Larry Nassar. Upon first learning of athlete concerns about Nassar in 2015, USA Gymnastics reported him to the FBI and relieved him of any involvement with USA Gymnastics…. Federal and state authorities ultimately charged Nassar with multiple crimes, leading to his incarceration and now his admission of guilt to charges of criminal sexual conduct. We note that affected women contacted by Michigan prosecutors supported resolution by plea, and USA Gymnastics also views Nassar’s guilty plea as an important acknowledgment of his appalling and devious conduct that permits punishment without further victimization of survivors.

Fire victim Dr. Larry

They’re very sorry? WE’RE ALL VERY SORRY. What about taking responsibility? There’s none of that in there. Apparently they agree that Nassar’s guilty plea fixes all the things. Nothing to see here!

We hope it’s true about the new policies, and that the new policies exist outside of the manual. The Star investigated four other cases in which USA Gymnastics didn’t act on sexual abuse charges against coaches, all four of whom were later convicted.

Writing in Slate, former gymnast Rebecca Schuman describes how the culture of gymnastics makes girls abandon autonomy over their bodies in order to rise in that intense, competitive sport. Read Schuman. Or read Aly Raisman‘s Fierce to understand the urgent ambition that lets children excel at the same time it leaves them defenseless.

We’re not sure what you could read to understand people who exploit that defenselessness.

Photo: Agência Brasil Fotografias. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The last thing disciplined gymnasts would do is eat the cookie.

This entry was posted in Bad Apologies, Institutional Apologies, Sports Apologies and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Shut up and let’s heal

  1. tanita says:

    There are too many sports in which we involve the very young for the entertainment of adults. Gymnastics, ballet, pageant… the list goes on, and the abuses go on. This news cycle feels freaking inescapable.

    • tanita says:

      …this is not to say that people shouldn’t speak. This is just bringing up a lot of thoughts about how profitably spent our teen years were, going to rehearsals and show choirs and competing for the glory of adults.

      • sumac says:

        That’s interesting — I haven’t thought about it much from that standpoint.

        There are ambitious kids, there are adults who are ambitious for the kids….

        • S. McC says:

          Both kinds of ambition occur, either simultaneously or in opposition, and the rolls can reverse.

          This situation is probably made worse and more dangerous, because in this sport, and at this level, very young girls are often sent/ allowed to go off, to very specialized training facilities far from home. If you want your child to have a chance at international level success, you pretty much have to abandon day to day control or one parent has to move to where the training facility is.

          Compound that with the virtually unbelievable fact that this could be occurring, and for so long, in a program operating at that level.

          It is simply appalling.

          • The same is true in tennis, and there have been some notorious cases there, too. A prominent French coach (he coached the 1998 Wimbledon finalist) was convicted a few years ago of sexually abusing a couple of his young teenaged charges; that case began with a book written by one of them. Her own experience was outside the French statute of limitations, but because of the book others came forward and one of them qualified.


  2. Frances Montell says:

    The absolute worst part of his apology is “this was like a match that turned into a forest fire.” This follows the phrase “I’m so horribly sorry that…” so it is what he is actually apologizing for, what he thinks he did wrong. And what was that? It seems that he is saying that if it had just stayed a little campfire, that would have been fine. To take it out of his stupid metaphor, his action of “lighting the match” must be the first time he molested a girl. So what he is actually saying is that if he just could have confined his actions to a few girls that would have been fine. The problem is that the “fire” (aka his need to abuse girls) got out of control and affected SO MANY girls.

    THIS IS SO *NOT* AN APOLOGY!!!! Leaving aside the passive tense and that he never even gets out of the realm of metaphor, what he is actually apologizing for is losing control over the abuse. HE IS NOT APOLOGIZING FOR THE ABUSE ITSELF. Only for his inability to confine it to a small number. GAGHH! I just can’t even…

  3. bratschegirl says:

    175 years in prison is just about right.

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