Working in this space, I spend a lot of my time speaking about the myths that surround offender typologies. Educating others that the sexual abuse of children knows no bounds. It isn’t something that is just happening in the shadows — in the dark corners of the web or in a scary basement. It can happen anywhere. Often times, child sexual abuse victims are abused by someone they know — people these children should have been able to trust.
But there are times when I am caught off guard by news of an abuser, even with the background knowledge I bring to the table. Never has that been more true than as the news broke over the past year about the former national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics. This month, I’ve read, watched, and listened as more than 160 brave woman came forward to testify and recount the many instances of abuse that occurred at the hands of Larry Nassar.
“Larry, you were the only one I trusted. In the end, you turned out to be the scariest monster of all.”
– Mattie Larson
“I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things that I had to endure to get there were unnecessary and disgusting.”
– McKayla Maroney
Gymnastics is a sport that I have been in love with since I learned to walk. As a young girl, I spent hours in the gym learning how to flip, balance on a beam, and navigate the uneven bars. This sport is a part of my childhood, a time I remember with great joy. As I shifted away from participating, my love for the sport itself and the women who competed remained.
When the stories of abuse continued to come out and more victims came forward, I thought of the many gymnasts I’ve watched, loved, and rooted for over the past twenty years. I wondered how many of them experienced abuse at the hands of Nassar and continued to compete at a sport they loved. I saw some of those very same athletes testify in court this week.
“When I came out, my sexual assault was wielded as a weapon against me.”
– Rachael Denhollander
“All I can think of is how this man, someone who held oh-so-many high credentials, was the monster who left me with more pain and scars than I came to his office with.”
– Jade Capua
All of the work that these women have done over the past week is confronting the harsh realities of child sexual abuse. That children are most likely abused by someone they know. That our culture shames those who experience abuse into silence. That when an adult in a position of power over your body and your dreams abuses you for years, our communities still want to believe him over victims. If it’s this hard for a world champion to be heard, if it takes 160+ victims to come forward at once, if it takes over 15 years to build the case, we need to work harder today. We need to learn how to protect the children who are vulnerable, and believe them when they say that something is wrong.
We hear you. We see you. Today and every day, Thorn stands with survivors of child sexual abuse. We are moved by your strength and we will never stop working until every child is free to simply be a kid.
“Let this sentence strike fear in anyone who thinks it is okay to hurt another person. Abusers, your time is up. The survivors are here, standing tall, and we are not going anywhere.”
– Aly Raisman