Los Angeles (The Karney Report) — HBO’s At the Heart of the Gold: how ‘Predatory’ Institutions Protected Sex Abuser Larry Nassar- U.S. Olympics
Here is the story that broke this week-for survivors—for all of us—for those who love and support women and children.
“Sister Survivors-Your Voice Means Everything”
Everyone calls the new HBO documentary; shocking as filmmaker, Erin Lee Carr cracks open the institutional network that allowed a predatory Olympic doctor to molest at least 250 women and girls.
As survivors, we don’t find it shocking at all. All major institutions protect predators like Dr. Larry Nassar. Whether it be Coach Sandusky at Penn State, the gynecologists at USC or UCLA, Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood, The Catholic Church, the family, the Boy Scouts, the Seventh Day Adventists, Brock Turner at Stanford, Michigan State Sports, The Justices of the United States Supreme Court, members of the U.S. Congress, or the President of the United State. Survivors know they are lone wolves culled from the institutional pack facing certain annihilation if they break their silence.
The response from institutions is always a mashup of victim blaming, cover-up, stonewalling, retaliation, obstruction, obfuscation, and even golden parachutes for those in power most complicit in the network. Some low-level culprit will go to jail, and all will be well in the kingdom of institutional protection of predators.
Survivors are marginalized, gaslighted, lied to, mislead, tortured by inept legal proceedings designed to conceal instead of reveal truth and their voices silenced.
Rachel Denhollander, a former USA gymnast, alleged that Nassar massaged her breast and digitally manipulated her on multiple occasions while he was supposed 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.
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 hundreds of young teen and preteen 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.
But it wasn’t until Rachael Denhollander became the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar in September 2016 – more than a year before #MeToo and the tipping point of a society’s reckoning with sexual assault – were Nassar’s many victims emboldened to break their silence. Denhollander’s courage encouraged more survivors to come forward, including Olympic champions and household names like Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber, until the trickle became a deluge, generating the momentum necessary to bring a pillar of the community to justice – and not without initially severe public backlash.
Since then more than 200 women have come forward alleging Nassar sexually abused them.
Nassar had unfettered access to young elite athletes and pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting them. And no one was there to stop him. Predators are gold medalists in the art of grooming young athletes.
“For more than two decades, Larry Nassar used his position as an osteopathic physician at Michigan State University and longtime doctor for the United States’ women’s gymnastics team to molest at least 250 women and girls under the guise of medical treatment,” wrote the Guardian.
The Institutions: Why They Enable Predators?
“Top USOC official fired after independent report details Nassar cover-up.”
Instead of alerting the athletes about Nassar, Ashley and Blackmun decided “to keep the matter to themselves,” according to the report.
The report firmly establishes that the top leadership of the U.S. Olympic Committee was aware of Nassar’s criminal conduct a year before they publicly acknowledged it.
The U.S. Olympic Committee fired Chief of sport performance Alan Ashley just hours after independent investigators revealed that he and the former CEO of the USOC knew for 14 months that team doctor Larry had been accused of molesting dozens of young girls — and failed to sound any alarms.
Ashley was fired because he and former CEO Scott Blackmun enabled a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” to molest and abuse dozens more girls under the guise of providing them medical treatment,” the 233-page report by the law firm Ropes & Gray states, as reported by NBC News.
“While Nassar bears ultimate responsibility for his decades-long abuse of girls and young women he did not operate in a vacuum,” investigators Joan McPhee and James Dowden wrote.
“Instead, he acted within an ecosystem that facilitated his criminal acts. Numerous institutions and individuals enabled his abuse and failed to stop him.”
Why don’t the victims speak up?
First, some victims do speak up but are told they are making it up. They are disbelieved. Punished, pulled from the team or squad, seen as a troublemaker, shunned, banned and shamed into silence.
But the bigger ask, is why do young girls and women show such confusion over the sexual molestation happening to them?
Victims do not understand what sexual abuse is when it’s happening to them. They are brainwashed by society to listen, respect, and stay silent to men of authority or power. Doctors are gods, coaches can make or break your athletic dreams, and everyone must worship at the temple of U.S. Olympics.
Girl after girl said she went along with the sexual abuse because the doctor said it was part of her medical treatment. She didn’t realize she was being sexually abused. She didn’t understand what was happening to her.
A young girl doesn’t know what is or is not a part of medical treatment. She is likely to believe her doctor. Especially when a parent may be in the room while she is being sexually abused. She is expected to believe her coach. She is a child, a girl, preteen, teen. She does not know or understand. There is confusion, anxiety, fear, self-blame, shame, depression, withdrawal. This child is isolated and alone. Something creepy, icky, unpleasant is happening to her, but she has no frame of reference. The victims aren’t just helpless; they are confused. Their bodies don’t understand. Their minds don’t understand or have the maturity to process it. They are faced with parents, coaches, institutions and a society that doesn’t support them but gaslights them instead.
From birth to death, girls lose control over their own body, their skin flayed fleck by fleck from abuse, expectations, objectification until the body has no boundary. The skin barrier so broken that all that is left is the physical shell of a once whole and connected body sold to the highest bidder, husband, coach, team doctor, boss, producer, director. We are skin slaves. ‘Learn it now,’ says the male patriarchy and its chief enforcers are women.
Where are the Adults in the Room?
We cannot expect children to know, understand, or take appropriate action. They are not mini lawyers, CNN analysts, or medical board pundits. They are children, preteens, teenagers, young women who are trying to grow up, follow their dream, do well in school, and be kids. So where are the adults in the room? The adults are watching their child being sexually abused and normalizing it, by not objecting, reporting, or ripping the abuser’s throat out. In essence, the adults are enabling the predator. One of the victims, Kyle Stephens, pausing to compose herself during Nassar’s sentencing hearing in a courtroom in Lansing, Michigan, said the doctor, a family friend, began molesting her when she was 6 years old and her parents did not believe her when she told them.
“You convinced my parents that I was a liar,” Stephens said.
Once her father realized she was telling the truth, he took his own life, Stephens said.
How Many Victims Does it Take Before We Act?
Too many. How many girls does it take to be believed? Well, we know from recent documentaries, that it definitely takes more than one girl, so incest survivors’ tough luck if you’re the only victim. And survivors of all other child sex abuse, you are shit out of luck too, unless your predator is famous or there are more than 10 or 15 survivors willing to speak up.
Why Condone Child Sex Abuse?
Because abuse of women and children is normalized in our society and the scandal fits into our framework of how we understand women’s gymnastics: that on some level we expect young women to be victimized, so it’s less surprising when they are sexually assaulted while in the sport.
Young athletes reported to me while writing this story, that coaches, trainers, doctors, assistants, anyone officially allowed access to their body as part of their training, are always putting their fingers through their leotard inside their vagina’s, anus fondling their breasts during workouts, training, physical therapy sessions.
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 submit to 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.
Rachel Denhollander and the other victims’ stolen innocence is just the tip of the sexual abuse iceberg. But by speaking up, they have saved so many other athletes from sexual abuse. We thank Denhollander, Lemke, Stephens, and all the women athletes for their bravery and courage in speaking up so that others can find their voice.
Where are the Institutions that Are Suppose to Protect Victims?
NBC reported that top U.S. Olympic Committee officials decided to “keep the matter to themselves” rather than alerting the athletes about Nassar, according to the report. Ashley and Blackmun top USOC officials could have saved hundreds of child victims from the blight of Dr. Larry Nassar. They chose to “keep the matter to themselves.” If one Nassar’s victims were their daughters, would they be so cavalier?
If institutions like the United States Congress cannot protect us from a predatory, democracy –killer narcissistic accused sexual assaulter President, there is no hope of institutions behaving properly and protecting our children from sexual assault. Now not. Now until we demand it. Stop enabling predators. Get laws and procedures in place that require institutional accountability with consequences. We place our trust, and our children’s lives in the hands of fundamental societal institutions that house, educate, treat, train, teach, entertain and pray with our children. Failure to protect a child from sexual abuse should have criminal, civil, and financial liability both on the perpetrators and the institution that enabled directly or by proxy such sexual abuse. We must raise the stakes for institutions and put their survival at risk. Just like their victim’s survival is at risk.
Money is the mother’s milk of politics. As long as institutions and those at the top continue to be top political donors, institutional accountability is a long way from becoming a reality.
If the 1-in-3 girls and the 1-in-5 boys each gave $5 to a survivor’s political action committee or non-profit, change would be more rapid.
It’s up to us. We must fight for it, demand it, and never give up until it’s done. It will be my last dying breath and fight word to protect children from going through what I endured as a child. Really, can we do no better than this?
It is tempting to throw up our hands. The problem is “too big,” “change is too slow,” ‘it’s overwhelming,’ ‘they are too powerful,” “I’m only one person.”
Yes, it is big. It is overwhelming. You are only one person, but standing together with others makes us huge. Speak up, write up, fund, support, donate, travel, endorse, to stop child sexual abuse. It is our duty to home and hearth.
“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
And finally a shout out to the documentary filmmakers and cable channels willing to finance, support and give oxygen to our stories ranging from ‘The Keepers,’ ‘At the Heart of the Gold, and ‘The Tale’ to Michael Jackson and R. Kelly. Thank you. You are keeping hope alive for survivors.
Thank you, Judge Aquilina and sister survivors. Your voice means everything
“It is my privilege to sentence you (Larry Nassar) to 60 years in federal court and then my 40 years…” 480 months. Sir, I’m giving you 175 years, your death sentence “Judge Aquilina.
RESOURCES FOR SURVIVORS
If you or someone you love has experienced sexual violence, call RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE or visit online.rainn.org.
To learn more about what you can do to help ensure freedom from sexual abuse as a human right, visit Roar as One at www.roaras1.org
To learn more about what you can do to protect children from sexual abuse, visit Darkness to Light at www.D2L.org.
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 fundamental 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.
Shari Karney, Survivor, Attorney and Founder of ROAR as ONE, a newly forming nonprofit 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 the
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.
Let your heart go out to all survivors who feel caged, living in shame, grief, and pain. Let us remember that we (you, me, all of us) are the only ones who can make a difference, demand justice, bring compassion to victims, and hold perpetrators legally and morally accountable. To do so, we must eliminate all statutes of limitations for sexual violence. Civil rights lawsuits need to be filed against the United States government for violation of our civil right to life, liberty and the pursuit of property. We must not punish victims of rape and incest by forcing them to give birth. All women must have free reproductive rights. We cannot enslave women and control their bodies.
- We ask that you donate even $1.00 for victims of child sex abuse. www.roara1.org. (The cost of an item at The .99 Cents Only Store).
- We ask you not to forget the plight of survivors of child sexual abuse. We ask that you write to your U.S. Senator and Congressperson to support The Child Victims Act–Survivor Civil Rights (The “CVA” for Survivor Civil Rights)
Where do We Go From Here? JUSTICE FOR ALL SURVIVORS
Together we must act to end the “scourge on humanity” of sexual assault. Please help us sponsor legislation that creates a civil right for survivors to be free of childhood sexual abuse.
Call to action:With stories coming out daily coupled with victims left in the wake of the national disaster of sexual assault, we ASK that Presidential candidates like #Senators Harris, #Warren, #Klobuchar,#Sanders, #Gillibrand, Former Vice President #Biden, Governor #Booker #Inslee, Mayors #Castro and #Buttigieg, and candidate #Beto O’Rourke take up the mantle of child sexual abuse as a cornerstone of your national campaign. Child victims of sexual abuse deserve to have the same national platform, cultural transformation and legislative attention that health care, equal pay, the environment, and a living wage for all require.
The issue of child sexual abuse is too important to remain silent. Millions of Americans are denied their humanity by sexual violence.
It’s a bipartisan issue. It’s a human rights issue––The civil right to be free of sexual assault and violence. The Child Victim’s Act–Civil Rights for Survivors.
Sexual violence and assault don’t discriminate based on political party, race, sexual orientation, or geography.
My prayer and life’s mission is that some good will come out of it.
From pain to purpose.
Shari Karney, Attorney and Founder of ROAR as ONE, a non-profit organization focusing on the rights of action for survivors of all forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
“From pain to purpose. 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, Esq. Author of an upcoming memoir, “The Perfect Family…From Pain to Purpose.
Please support survivors and Roar as One (www.roaras1.org). Our mission is pursuing justice for survivors of sexual assault and violence.
We need to come together, speak up, stand up, rise now. ACT AS ONE. ROAR AS ONE.
We must recognize and enact laws that protect the basic human right to be free of sexual assault and sexual violence. Enact nationwide legislation for victims of child sexual abuse. Remove all #statute of limitations both criminal and civil backwards and forwards for #survivors of child sex abuse. Join our Civil Rights Movement to get legal rights 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. Allow survivors and sexual violence victims to file in Federal court.
©Legal Education Unlimited, Inc. (This is a publication of Legal Education Unlimited, Inc.)