While watching the sentencing hearings for Larry Nassar, I took an opportunity to also watch the hearings on social media, reading many of the comments which folks posted. I was struck on many occasions by the complete lack of compassion and understanding expressed in some comments. A disturbing trend were comments to the effect that somehow, the victims of Nassar’s criminal conduct lost any right to pursue justice because they failed to speak up in a timely manner. What appears to have been lost on those observers was any understanding or appreciation for a victim’s response when sexually assaulted. To all those individuals who believe that none of the victims had any right to speak because they did not speak up previously, a brief lesson in compassion is now offered.
How can we expect victims of sexual assault to speak up when, in this specific case, those who bravely did so in the mid-1990s were intimidated and coerced into silence? What exactly is expected from a six-year old victim of sexual assault? What about a nine-year old victim? What about a fifteen-year old teenager who is assaulted by someone she has been conditioned to trust implicitly?
For those who believe the victims are somehow at fault for not reporting the conduct, I respectfully recommend that you talk with any victim advocate, especially those who deal with young child victims on an almost daily basis. That victim advocate will tell us that we can’t undo the harm that was done. But once we learn what has happened, we owe each and every victim our compassion and our understanding. As responsible adults we also owe the victims a restoration of their sense of security – that we will do all that we can to insure no further harm is done. Let’s stop the rush to judgment and instead, start creating a society where our children are no longer at risk from sexual predators and others who seek to do them harm. We can do no less.