“Sister Survivors-Your Voice Means Everything”
Gymnasts Lindsey Lemke can’t remember the first time her team doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused her. She was only 13 when she started seeing Dr. Nassar for back and hip issues for six years. She decided to break silence in July 2017 in a story for Cosmopolitan where she alleges that Nassar would “work his way toward her butt—before kneading her vagina over her clothes. Then he’d slip a hand down the back of her underwear and start stroking her bare skin. Finally, he’d push a finger inside of her.” Lemke alleges that Dr. Larry Nassar sexually abused her more than 600 times during her “treatment for sports injuries” since the age of 13. To add insult to injury, Nassar justified his perpetration by saying that if he “inserted a finger and pressure-pointed a certain area, it would make it feel better.”
And there were so many more young athletes victimized by Dr. Nassar. McKayla Maroney, a member of the USA’s famed ”Fierce Five” team that won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, said she suffered abuse from Nassar over the course of multiple years, according to her heart rendering account posted to Twitter. Maroney wrote that the abuse began she was 13 years old. She was inspired by the “#MeToo” posts on social media in which hundreds of thousands of women have come forward about their experiences with sexual assault to speak up. Rachel Denhollander a former USA gymnast, alleged that Nassar massaged her breast and digitally manipulated her on multiple occasions while he was suppose to be treating her for pain. Denhollander said that during one of her appointments, Nassar had a “very clear erection” and that his “eyes were closed, his face was flushed, and he was breathing very heavily.
Since then more than 100 women have come forward alleging Nassar sexually abused them.
The Doctor: Larry Nassar was a prominent sports medicine doctor and former USA gymnastic team physician. Nassar had unfettered access to young elite athletes and is accused of sexually assaulting them. And there was no one to stop him. No one. Why was that? How did we leave innocent young women in the hands of a predator without supervision, accountability, or legal recourse?
Because we don’t want to face it, we don’t want to hear it, we want to put our hands over our ears and hum, to block out the reality of the wholesale sexual assault and violence our culture perpetrates against females. And we certainly don’t want to hear about doctors taking sexual advantage of patients. Especially when those patients are vulnerable pre-teens representing the honor and hope of USA Gymnasts and Team USA.
And instead of the USA Gymnasts and Team USA believing these young athletes, helping them, stopping the sexual abuse, they were silent partners. And even worse…USA Gymnastics lawyers ‘tried to dig up dirt on the gymnast’s sexual history.
The Nassar case has uncovered the harrowing truth about the world of competitive sports. There is wholesale sexual assault and abuse of young elite athletes. And the response from USA Gymnastics is to attack the victims by digging up past boyfriends, sexual indiscretions, rumors, and innuendos to discredit the victims as well as pollute the potential jury pool. USA Gymnastics is unleashing their high priced attack-dog lawyers, private investigators, and PR machines to discredit the women who have spoken up and to send a menacing message to future victims, “shut up, put up or we will crush you.”
An Olympic gymnast allegedly sexually abused by the team doctor claims lawyers for USA Gymnast tried to dig up dirt on her sexual history after she filed a lawsuit against him, court documents obtained by Dailymaiol.com revealed.
Why national and international criminal prosecution of Dr. Nassar and other predators for sexual abuse is so difficult.
The allegations are that Nassar abused multiple victims during the Olympic and other overseas events.
Charging Nassar for alleged perpetration against young athletes internationally is challenging because there is a matrix of complicated legal issues when attempting to navigate international law. Which country should hear the case, what laws or statutes apply, what is the power of US Attorneys to enforce sexual assault, abuse, and harassment overseas?
What is abundantly clear is that doctors are given free access to young elite athletes knowing that even if they get caught, it’s a game of Monopoly and they have a free “get out of jail card” in their back pocket. Weak, complicated or non-existent enforcement mechanisms against perpetrators give them unfettered access to vulnerable young women without fear of consequences. What it says to our top athletes is you don’t matter.
“You may think what I’m going to do is harsh, but nothing is as harsh as what your victims endured at your hands…. Judge Aquilina, Larry Nassar Trial Judge
Young Athletes are Particularly Vulnerable to Doctor Sexual Abuse
Athletes are in a competition to win, and their body is critical to achieving the goal. Lindsey Lemke and the other athletes who have spoken up are a perfect example of the victimization that comes from relationships of unequal power.
Add to this scenario, young vulnerable girls and unlimited hours of unrestrained entrée to these young girls by top coaches, trainers and sports doctors and you have the perfect predator petri dish for sexual assault and abuse.
We place our faith in doctors. Who hasn’t felt that drop in the pit of your stomach at the sight of the godlike doctor? The doctor-patient relationship is one of absolute trust sprinkled with a hint of intimidation. The white coat, the silver stethoscope, the hushed tone when the “Doctor” comes into the room, makes us all, but particularly children, young adults, the elderly, vulnerable to sexual violence, assault and abuse from the medical profession.
Predators are gold medalists in the art of grooming young athletes
Perpetrators are masters at building a relationship of confidence, trust, and love. Like Dr. Nassar, they often offer a listening ear and special emotional support. Ms. Lemke says, “If you had a bad day with a coach, he would talk to you about it. “If you had a fight with your mom “he would be there to have a heart-to-heart with”. Predators groom by lavishing their target victim with gifts, extravagances and special treatment. At the same time they are grooming the victim, these predators, (particularly paedophiles) are grooming the community. Skilled manipulators, they cultivate a close relationship with parents, coaches, trainers, community leaders, churches and clubs, socializing with them in the neighbourhood and seen as esteemed figures of respect, trust and glamour.
Young athletes who have been taught to win at all costs become susceptible — along with their parents — to manipulation and predatory behaviour by men like Nassar who have the power to lead them to triumph. Coveted coaches, top sports doctors, trainers are elevated to star-like status, enjoying unfettered access to cloistered young athletes.
And the message to the athletes is “deal with it, it comes with the territory, it’s all about winning” and the sexual perpetration is rationalized away. These young girls are not encouraged or allowed to speak up. They are silenced by the predator as well as by parents and the community. It’s an environment where the coach, the doctor, the trainer, rules. You don’t get far as a young athlete by questioning those in power or speaking back. The young girls that reach the pinnacle of success in their sport are those that have learned to passively submit to the men in power. These men are seen as having the young girls interests at heart. The girls are groomed to be silent, respectful winners. Nobody likes a complainer, a challenger to the authority predators hold most dear.
Athletes are particularly vulnerable with few legal protections afforded to other victims.
Here’s what needs to be done to prevent and protect our athletes from sexual assault and child molestation.
⦁ Legislation needs to be passed that would require sports organizations to report abuse claims to law enforcement including the United States of America-National Olympic Committee, Team USA, and the International Olympic Committee (that is not currently required).
⦁ There need to be international treaties and international laws that regulate sexual assault, sexual abuse and violence against athletes participating in international and Olympic events spelling out what the penalties and enforcement mechanisms are, which country has jurisdiction, what law enforcement agency will be responsible for enforcement to name just a few. The legal loopholes currently in place make enforcement impossible and only serve to protect predators.
⦁ There needs to be national awareness and effort to do more to protect athletes from sexual abuse.
⦁ Parents need to stop giving autonomous discretion and access to their children without requiring adult overseeing, reporting, and accountability. You wouldn’t just hand over your cocker spaniel to anyone, why your child?
⦁ Athletes’ protection and safety needs to be more important to us than winning at all cost. We destroy our athletes and fail to adequately safeguard them. It dishonours us all.
⦁ And USA teams and sports organizations need to do more to combat sexual abuse.
Unfortunately, Lindsey Lemke and the other victims’ stolen innocence is just the tip of the sexual abuse iceberg. But by speaking up, they may save other athletes from sexual molestation and assault. We thank Lemke and all the women for their bravery and courage in speaking up so that others can find their voice.
“It is my privilege to sentence you to 60 years in federal court and then my 40 years…” 480 months. Sir, I’m giving you 175 years, which is 21 months. “ Judge Aquilina
My motto Speak, Heal, Empower. The Power of S.H.E
We need to come together, speak up, stand up, and rise up. ACT AS ONE. ROAR AS ONE.
Roar as One against rape, sexual assault, harassment, child sexual abuse and misconduct.
We must recognize and enact laws that protect the basic human right to be free of sexual assault, violence, sexual harassment, and child sexual abuse. Enact Federal Civil Rights Legislation for victims of sexual abuse, assault, child sexual abuse. Join our Civil Rights Movement to get legal remedies and recognition of sexual violence as a violation of human civil rights. Help us remove the Statute of Limitations nationwide for sexual assault, sexual abuse, and continuous child sexual abuse, in both civil and criminal courts.
Thank you, Judge Aquilina and sister survivors. Your voice means everything
Shari Karney, Survivor, Attorney and Founder of ROAR as ONE, a newly forming non-profit organization focusing on the rights of action for survivors of all forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
ROAR was created to restore dignity and defend the right to pursue happiness for every person who has suffered through sexual assault, rape, incest, child sexual abuse and been silenced and manipulated for the pleasure of others. Our goal is to ensure equality under the law for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. To create a society and government to defend these rights and allow all voices to speak and be heard.
Read Shari’s story in the upcoming book, The Girl Behind the Curtain, a Memoir of Sexual Violence, Obsession, Love, & Law…One Woman’s Journey.
“Being sexually abused at such an early age was the scar on my soul. But I feel like it ultimately made me into the person I am today. I understand the journey of life. I had to go through what I went through to be here. But now it’s time to take action to save the next generation of women and children from what we went through.
Shari Karney is a Founder of ROAR as ONE, a newly forming nonprofit to combat sexual violence, sexual assault, and sexual abuse. ROAR as ONE’s mission is to create equality and justice for victims of sexual abuse. Our mission is to defend the right to pursue happiness—happiness that has been stolen through child sexual abuse sexual assault, rape, silence, and manipulation for the pleasure of others. Our goal is to ensure a society and government that defends this right to happiness and to allow all voices to speak and be heard.
Note: More than 2,400 doctors in the United States have been sanctioned for sexual abuse.