Larry Nassar, the disgraced former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics team doctor, has been accused of sexual abuse by 140 women. That’s nearly as many victims as the Jerry Sandusky, Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein scandals combined.
Days before his sentencing on Jan. 16, many of Nassar’s victims are wondering the same question: Why does no one seem to care about their story?
“I remember when the Penn State scandal was talked about at length for months and months and even years. This is nearly five times the size and no one knows about it,” sexual abuse survivor Morgan McCaul told HuffPost.
A dancer and first-year college student, McCaul is one of the dozens of plaintiffsanonymously named in lawsuits against Nassar, MSU and USA Gymnastics. The 18-year-old said that Nassar began sexually abusing her when she was just 12 years old in 2012. The abuse continued for three years.
McCaul described how she’s repeatedly had to explain to professors why she needs to miss class or an exam because of an upcoming court date. Often times, she said, they have no idea about the Nassar case.
“It’s been hard to reckon with, especially because these are people that I expect to be educated,” said McCaul, who attends the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, which is only an hour away from MSU. “Even people that are teaching at universities don’t know that this went on.”
‘I Haven’t Sensed The Outrage’
HuffPost spoke with six survivors who are suing Nassar, MSU and/or USA Gymnastics: McCaul, Alexis Alvarado, Jessica Smith, Christine Harrison, Larissa Boyce (who have all come out publicly since the lawsuits were filed) and “Jane Doe” (who wants to remain anonymous). All six women ― three gymnasts, two dancers and a soccer player ― shared a similar sentiment, that the country doesn’t seem to care what happened to them.
“I haven’t sensed the outrage,” said Boyce, who alleges that Nassar began abusing her when she was 16 and continued from 1997 to 2001.
Alvarado believes the country has essentially ignored the trauma inflicted on her and the other women because they’re not famous athletes. The 19-year-old said that Nassar sexually abused her for six years starting when she was 12.
“A lot of people seem to believe it’s only Olympians that this [abuse] happened to, which isn’t true,” she said.
Alvarado has a point. Although the Nassar scandal has rocked MSU and the surrounding community of East Lansing (thanks to stellar reporting from local news outlets), it seems the only times that Nassar’s name made national news were when Olympians ― including gymnasts Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney ― came forward with accusations.
Other survivors believe their stories haven’t made front-page headlines because they’re female athletes.
“I think it plays into the importance that we put on male athletics versus female athletics,” McCaul said. “This is a case of gymnasts and dancers and figure skaters, not football players or basketball players. I think it’s sexism, to be honest. There’s no other explanation for why this many women have come forward and it’s not big news.”
Smith, who said that Nassar abused her for a few months when she was 17, also sees a connection between the identities of Nassar’s victims and the lack of public attention.
“It’s hard to feel like, if I was an Olympic gymnast, maybe this would be different. If I was a football player at MSU or a basketball player at MSU, then maybe the public and MSU as an institution would care more,” she said.
Decades Of Abuse By A Trusted Doctor
Nassar, 54, sexually abused young athletes ― many of whom were top-tier gymnasts and dancers ― for decades under the guise of medical treatment. According to court documents, he gained the trust of girls and their families, which then gave him cover as he used his exams to fondle and digitally penetrate the girls in the vagina and anus.
He treated many of these athletes for years during his tenures as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics, the doctor for various MSU sports teams and the sports medicine doctor at the Michigan gymnastics training gym Twistars.
The first allegation against Nassar came out publicly in September 2016, a year before the explosive rise of the #MeToo movement. He had already been let go by USA Gymnastics in 2015 and was subsequently fired from his faculty position at MSU. In December 2016, he was arrested for possessing at least 37,000 images of child pornography, and in July 2017, he pleaded guilty to three federal counts relating to child pornography. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison this December.
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