The nightmare that began with U.S. women gymnasts, both prominent and unknown, being sexually molested as young girls by USA Gymnastics former national team doctor, Larry Nassar, did not end with his 60-year prison sentence in 2018. The horror was once again conjured up in the most excruciatingly painful manner Sept. 15 at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in Washington, D.C.
Four U.S. gymnasts, Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney along with National College Athletic Association champion Maggie Nichols, provided heart-wrenching testimony exposing the failure of the FBI, as well as USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, to take seriously their proven allegations against Nassar. Nassar also worked at Michigan State University, which showed similar indifference during the period the gymnasts were abused.
The harshest criticism by the four gymnasts was saved for the FBI, whose agents were asked to investigate the allegations against Nassar but never questioned him, even after he was arrested by state officials. One of the agents assigned to the investigation even tried to get a job with USAG.
Biles remarked to the Committee: “I don’t want another young gymnast, Olympic athlete or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured — before, during and continuing to this day in the wake of the Larry Nassar abuse. To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse. We have been failed, and we deserve answers.”
Speaking in graphic terms of Nassar’s sexual assault on her in 2015, Maroney stated, “I told the FBI all of this, and they chose to falsify my report and to not only minimize my abuse but silence me yet again. It took them 14 months to report anything, when Larry Nassar — in my opinion — should have been in jail that day.” (Washington Post, Sept. 15)
Maroney went on to say, “They made entirely false claims about what I said. They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester, rather than protect not only me but countless others.” She stated that talking openly on what happened to her and others has helped to offset post traumatic stress disorder.
Raisman said, “The FBI made me feel like my abuse didn’t count. I’m still navigating how I feel from this. I don’t think people realize how much this affects us. . . . I’m often wondering, am I ever going to feel better? . . . I’m so sick from the trauma.” (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 15)
Nichols, the gymnast who opened up the investigation against Nassar, said, “I want you to know that this did not happen to Gymnast 2 or Athlete A: It happened to me.”
All four of these gymnasts, who represent at least 120 others, have asked that these FBI agents be indicted on criminal charges by the Justice Department and not just be fired. Only one FBI agent has been fired for mishandling the Nassar case.
System steeped in misogyny
The FBI, as part of the repressive state apparatus, does not exist to protect the interests of workers and oppressed people, including the bodies of girls and women, against misogyny and sexual predators like Nassar, Harvey Weinstein and other men who wield wealth and power.
Women athletes, especially young ones, are the most exploited and under the most unbelievable pressure to perform to win, at the risk of developing eating disorders, physical injuries and mental stress. Remember how Simone Biles withdrew from several competitions during the recent Tokyo Olympics for her mental health, some of it related to the Nassar trauma.
This is the same FBI that carried out the terrorist Counter Intelligence Program, Cointelpro, during the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, that infiltrated and decimated national liberation movements inside the U.S. Cointelpro targeted the Black Panther Party, the American Indian Movement and others, resulting in the jailing of many political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sundiata Acoli and Leonard Peltier.
One cannot expect the FBI to punish its own with any real charges or jail time, despite any apologies made to the gymnasts. It would truly take a mass struggle to win any kind of justice.
Right now, one can only applaud the inspiring bravery of Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Maggie Nichols and McKayla Maroney for exposing the government abusers that attempted to protect Nassar — and indirectly exposing the capitalist system that perpetuates such horrific sexual violence.