On Wednesday, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols all testified at a Senate panel about the systemic failure to bring former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar to justice for sexually abusing dozens of women and children. Through tears, they once again detailed Nassar’s many abuses and the subsequent quest to get anyone, anywhere to care.
“USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge,” Biles said. “We suffered and continue to suffer, because no one at the FBI, USAG or the USOPC did what was necessary to protect us. We have been failed.”
It’s difficult to keep track of how many women have had to share this heartbreaking, humiliating story how many times, for all the good it’s done any of them. As the gymnasts in Wednesday’s panel took pains to point out, the FBI, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee were all aware of the allegations. The first abuse was reported in 1997. The case went to the FBI in 2015. Rachael Denhollander gave her story to the Indianapolis Star in 2016.
And through it all, not only was there a remarkable failure to act, there was frequently deliberate coverup. The FBI’s Indianapolis office response was pathetic. It “did not undertake any investigative activity” for “five weeks,” a Department of Justice report reveals. They finally interviewed one complainant via telephone and then did nothing else, despite there being multiple other victims who were ready to tell their stories and made it clear they were willing to meet with the FBI. They did nothing else for eight months, during which time the agent in charge of the case, Jay Abbott, retired and sought help from the president of USA Gymnastics to get a new gig. In the meantime, Nassar raped at least 100 more young women and girls.
“They allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year,” Maroney said. “What is the point of reporting abuse if FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?”
Why, indeed? Why, for that matter, should any of them expect that after telling their stories to the press, to courtrooms, to newspapers and websites, to social media, the police, the FBI and other elected officials that this testimony will make a difference? How hard should it be for victims to get some measure of justice? How hard should it be for society to make sure those responsible are held accountable? How many times should a story be told before someone in charge offers offers a concrete response?
It’s worth noting that these women are international stars, with media training and well-compensated legal teams, and they’ve still been unable to get the answers they’re looking for. If a celebrity of Simone Biles’ caliber struggles to get the wheel of justice to turn, what chance do less well-heeled victims have? Why would they even bother to try?
“I know you didn’t come here for our kind words, our proudness, our empathy,” said Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, proving at least one politician seemed to have some awareness of the stakes. “You came here for justice, for action.”
Raisman delivered the opening statement, and her scathing review of the FBI, the USAG and the USOPC is a must-listen. “The FBI and others within both USAG and USOPC knew that Nassar molested children and did nothing to restrict his access,” she said. “It was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter.”
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.