Four top U.S. gymnasts, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Maggie Nichols, testified at a Senate hearing Wednesday on how the FBI botched the investigation into sexual abuse allegations made against former USA Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar.
Nassar is currently serving a life sentence for molesting hundreds of women and girls during his time as the official USA Gymnastics doctor. Biles, Raisman, Maroney, and Nichols are survivors of Nassar’s abuse and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday to describe how the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee failed to protect them or take their allegations of Nassar’s sexual violence seriously.
“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Simone Biles said at the hearing. “USA Gymnastics and the United States, Olympic and Paralympic Committee knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge.”
“Nassar is where he belongs,” Biles continued. “Those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports.”
McKayla Maroney, a member of the 2012 USA women’s gymnastics team, described how the FBI completely disregarded her when she came forward in 2015 to tell how she had been sexually abused by Nassar. After describing the trauma Nassar inflicted on her to an FBI agent during a phone interview, the agent was “dead silent.” Maroney said she was “so shocked at the agent’s silence and disregard for my trauma. After that minute of silence, he asked, ‘Is that all?’ Those words, in itself was one of the worst moments of this entire process, for me to have my abuse be minimized and disregarded by the people who were supposed to protect me.”
Maroney testified that the FBI waited a year and a half before documenting her report and then falsified her statement. She noted how the agency’s inaction and falsification of her report allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue.
“After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report, 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney said. “They chose to fabricate. They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me, but countless others.”
Aly Raisman, who is also an Olympian, testified how the FBI minimized her abuse as well.
“I remember sitting there with the FBI agent and him, trying to convince me that it wasn’t that bad,” she said. “And it’s taken me years of therapy to realize that my abuse was bad, that it does matter.”
“I don’t think people realize how much it affects us, how much the PTSD, how much the trauma impacts us,” Raisman continued.
Two months ago, the Justice Department released a report detailing how the FBI’s botched investigation into Nassar allowed him to continue working as a doctor for Michigan State University, a gymnastics center, and a high school in Lansing, Michigan, despite the fact that the FBI knew of the allegations against him as a child molester.
Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, apologized to the gymnasts and acknowledged how the agency failed survivors of Nassar’s abuse by mishandling the investigation and minimizing the seriousness of their allegations.
“A message needs to be sent,” Biles said. “If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough.”
Sources: CNN 9/15/21; NPR 9/15/12; The Guardian 9/15/21; New York Times 9/15/21