It has been heart wrenching to watch the televised sentencing hearing going on in Michigan where Dr. Larry Nassar will be sentenced this week. But at the same time, I admire the emotional strength and courage of each of the victims who has come forward, especially those who have found the strength to speak up publicly. Because of their courage, the topic of sexual assault can no longer be swept under the rug simply because of the status of the perpetrator, how much money he/she has, which organization is employing that individual, and which university or college might be affiliated with him/her. For these victims, and countless others who won’t get the national media attention, their injury is all the more reprehensible because in many instances these victims did speak up. Here’s the problem – no one took them seriously until the evidence was overwhelming. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year federal sentence because of his conviction on child pornography charges. He is facing sentencing on county charges involving the sexual assault on at least eight different victims, charges set out in a plea agreement. As the sentencing judge has noted, the plea agreement was reached in part to give the victims some closure. That doesn’t mean that their voices were to be silenced and a majority of the over 140 victims will be heard at the sentencing hearing by that courageous and compassionate judge. One can only hope that the judge imposes the maximum sentence available under the law and makes the sentence consecutive to the current federal sentence Nassar is serving.
The time has now come to not only hold those directly responsible for sexual assault, abuse, and/or harassment accountable to the fullest extent of the law, but it is also time for us as a society to hold those accountable who facilitate the wrongdoing or turn a blind eye because it affects their bottom line or might tarnish their public image.
Our children need the security of knowing that we, the community’s adult members, will do our utmost to protect their futures, keeping them free from the horrific consequences of such conduct that Nassar and others like him foist on the true innocents. We can never give these victims back what was so horribly stolen from them. But we can reassure them that we will do everything legally possible to prevent other young people from being victimized. To the victims I say stay strong as individuals, draw your strength from those willing to listen, help, and support you on a life journey that was not your choice. You will prevail.