On September 15, a Senate hearing gave several women who were sexually abused by former US gymnastics physician Larry Nassar a platform to share their stories. Horrific in nature, the tragedy of these women’s stories is amplified by the severe mishandling of the situation by the FBI.
Even though the hearing just took place, Nassar has a long history of abuse allegations, most of which were ignored. In 1998, a student-athlete reported Nassar to Michigan State University, where he worked at the time, but no action was taken. Once again in 2000, a student raised concerns about Nassar, but the university did nothing.
Until 2016, Nassar faced no consequences for the harm he imposed on countless young girls. And although the #MeToo movement may have encouraged some of these women to speak out about the abuse they experienced, ultimately it did not protect them from the severe mishandlings that still go on in sexual abuse cases.
In the Senate, four gymnasts who were abused by Nassar spoke. This included Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman. Each of them stressed that if agencies had responded swiftly, countless victims could have been protected. In 2015, Maroney shared her experience in an interview with the FBI that was not formally summarized until 2017. Not only was there a serious delay in the official reporting, but Maroney also claims that her statements were “falsified.”
In an era with so much focus on justice for those who have suffered sexual abuse, it is astonishing to see how these women’s reports were completely ignored. Not only were the reports ignored, but there was little accountability or repercussions for the mishandling, and there may not have been any without the media attention of the Senate hearing.
The Department of Justice has refused to charge the two FBI agents who were handling the case. This decision provides no consequences for those who allowed a predator to continue harming young girls. As Simone Biles stated in the hearing, “A message needs to be sent: If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough.”
Not only were claims ignored, but there was also outright corruption. This includes an FBI agent dining with the president of USA gymnastics, as well as entertaining a job offer secured from him.
It took hundreds of voices before anything was done about Nassar’s abuse, which should have been handled years ago when girls first started coming forward with their stories.
Not only did the DOJ refuse to prosecute anyone for the mishandling of the situation, but they also denied the request to have top officials testify on their decision. One has to wonder why the DOJ is not willing to give this information or share what led to this mishandling.
Michael Langeman, the FBI agent who interviewed McKayla Maroney in 2015, did lose his job on September 14th. Still, for years after his failure in the case, he was not held accountable, and his firing may have been largely due to the media attention garnered by the Senate trial.
This is one of the issues with the current system. Although we are willing to elevate the voices of victims, their reports are often downplayed, or proper action is not taken against those who allowed the crime to continue happening. It takes a lot of courage to come forward with such an allegation, and the mishandling of cases like this only gives women less faith in the ability of their story to provide substantive change.
Although Langeman being fired was a correct move in the case, it was not enough. The case should have been properly handled years ago when it was first reported. Yet, as Biles said, the FBI “turned a blind eye” to the case, protecting the institutions that enabled such a tragedy to occur.
It’s not enough to simply encourage women to come forward with stories of sexual abuse. The cases need to be handled in a way that provides faith in the process. Unfortunately, in this case, they were not, which allowed a predator to continue harming women. Everyone involved needs to be held accountable if we are to make sure that this mishandling of justice does not occur again.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.