By Heather Pearson
Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar has been sentenced up to 175 years in prison for sexual crimes. More than 150 women testified at Nassar’s sentencing hearing, detailing their experiences of sexual abuse by the man. Nassar had previously been sentenced 60 years for child pornography, and pleaded guilty in November for the sexual abuse of seven girls; however, this new trial brought to light his molestation of female patients when he was supposed to be performing medical examinations and treatment.
For seven days, survivors shared their statements and stories and as a result Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar to prison for 40 to 175 years. Originally, 100 women were expected to testify but over 150 spoke or shared statements, including Olympians such as Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and Simone Biles. However, most survivors were not decorated competitors, but young athletes and students.
As journalist Jen Kirby reports, “many of the victims were minors, sometimes abused with their parents in the room while they were medically examined. There is evidence that Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, the two elite institutions associated with Nassar, were slow to act on reports that he was abusing girls and young women.”
During the trial, Nassar read an apology letter, however Judge Aquilina responded by reading another statement he submitted in which he accused survivors of lying, described the trial as a ‘media circus’ and wrote, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
When sentencing Nassar, Judge Aquilina stated, “It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again. You have done nothing to control those urges and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable.”
Feminist media sources have praised Aquilina for her strong commitment to protecting survivors and holding assailants responsible, and the New York Times described her as “a fierce advocate for the women.”
“It took so many women standing together to take down just that one man,” commented a Salem local at community coffee shop, the Ike Box. She went on to say, “At my university, there were resources for women who experienced things like that, but nobody ever used them, because they thought people wouldn’t believe them or that that was just a part of college life.” Nassar’s case as a whole, shows how women are creating change.
Due to outrage over the trial, the chairman and several board members of the USA gymnastics governing body have resigned. The organization has also decided to no longer work with a private training center in Texas where some of the assaults happened. Additionally, the president of Michigan State has stepped down due to mounting public outcry, since Nassar spent years as a faculty member and athlete doctor at the university.
This trial comes to pass during the current reckoning surrounding sexual assault and harassment in settings everywhere from Hollywood to Willamette’s own hallways. However, the sheer extent of Nassar’s abuse exceeds all previous cases brought forward recently. Though Nassar has one more sentencing hearing later this month, Judge Aquilina’s statement hold true and he will be imprisoned for the rest of his life.