Pathetic lack of response to Larry Nassar's reign of terror hits U.S. Senate

·Columnist
·5 min read

Aly Raisman has appeared in courtrooms, at packed news conferences, on “60 Minutes,” in newspapers, on websites, in front of panels — and just about every other way imaginable — to not only shed light on the actions of Larry Nassar, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee in this horrific scandal … but to call for action.

Interviews. Statements. Speeches. Testimony. Emails. Tweets.

She isn’t alone. Hundreds of Nassar victims have done the same. Girls who were sexually abused by the former Olympic team doctor have shown incredible courage to fight a system and a parade of individuals who repeatedly failed them.

Nassar's abuse was first reported in 1997. The FBI had the case in 2015. The Indianapolis Star broke the scandal in 2016. Nassar still carried on. Even after Nassar was finally charged and pleaded guilty in 2017, there has been more media, more documentaries, more pleas for someone, anyone, to act.

Yet it was back to Square One Wednesday as Raisman and fellow survivors Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to tell their stories … again.

It’s why as powerful as their statements were — and these were, as always, heart-wrenching, personal and painful — the following was the most powerful of all.

“I probably sound like a broken record,” Raisman said during the question-and- answer session, “but hopefully today will be the one this time that I say it, it actually happens.”

Hopefully.

But why would these women, and the fellow survivors they represent, believe it will change? Why would anyone believe this was more than a bunch of senators taking the chance to sound concerned on national television while expressing their staunch opposition to child sexual abuse, which isn’t exactly a controversial stance?

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 15: U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General's report on the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar investigation on Capitol Hill, on September 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. Nassar was charged in 2016 with federal child pornography offenses and sexual abuse charges in Michigan. He is now serving decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women said he sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. (Photo by Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General's report on the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar investigation on Capitol Hill, on September 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images)

Wednesday’s hearing was ostensibly about the failure of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office to conduct any semblance of an investigation when the case came to it. Confronted with credible reports and victims willing to speak to them, the FBI did almost nothing.

It “did not undertake any investigative activity” for “five weeks,” according to a Department of Justice report. It then interviewed one complainant via telephone but never bothered to contact “the other two gymnasts who they were told were available to meet with FBI investigators.”

The FBI then went back to sitting on the case for eight months. During that time, the agent leading the case, Jay Abbott, sought a post-retirement job with the USOC and worked with the president of USA Gymnastics in an effort to attain it.

Meanwhile, Nassar, still free and operating in mid-Michigan, continued to rape young girls. His victims who wanted action were told to be quiet due to the “ongoing FBI investigation.”

At least 100 additional girls were sexually molested as the FBI provided cover.

“They allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year,” McKayla 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?”

It’s infuriating. Devastating. Enraging.

Yet none of this is new. This has all been out in the public for years. The information. The tear-stained stories. Even the official DOJ report came out months ago.

It wasn’t until last week — last week! — that the FBI actually bothered to fire the supervisory special agent involved, Michael Langeman, who is also accused of covering up the inaction. FBI director Christopher Wray showed up to offer apologies and point to FBI policies. He was grilled by some senators, but what then?

The one truism of the Nassar case is nothing was done to stop him until someone was forced to do it. No one wanted to get involved in this. Few wanted to do anything but give Nassar the benefit of the doubt. USA Gymnastics pointed to safety guidelines that were, in part, written by none other than Larry Nassar. The FBI didn’t care.

And even after it all blew up … well, here we still are.

Why was another hearing needed? Did any elected official pay any attention along the way? This isn’t some obscure story. Not that it should matter, but the victims are immensely famous.

For a senator — and it was all of them — to praise these women for going through the hell of testifying again when it was they who ignored all their prior testimonies was pathetic. This shouldn’t have been necessary. These women shouldn’t have to keep having to trade on their gold-medal star power to plea with anyone to listen.

The FBI is outraged now? How about when the Indy Star first reported the story? Did anyone in the Indianapolis field office think maybe, just maybe, they should conduct a full examination into what the hell was going on? Anyone get the paper there? Did no one care that a serial pedophile under their nose continued to operate on the loose for so long? Anyone at FBI headquarters?

Apparently not. No one cared. They never cared. One guy retired. One guy finally got fired. Everyone else looked the other way.

Raisman shouldn’t have had to come here again, to sound like a broken record again and ask, again — for the millionth time — for a full-investigation into USA Gymnastics, the USOPC and the FBI on this. It should've been done by now.

“I know you didn’t come here for our kind words, our proudness, our empathy,” Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said. “You came here for justice, for action.”

So can this be the last time?

“The burden is on us in the U.S. Senate to see there is a full examination that there is personal accountability and institutional accountability for abuse, enablement of abuse, neglectful and improper law-enforcement conduct, and I think compelling evidence of potential obstruction of justice and official corruption in this case as well,” Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia said.

Will they finally get it? They've been waiting for far too long.

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