This is Larissa Boyce, 36 years old. Twenty years earlier, she was sexually assaulted by someone she trusted, that her parents trusted, to treat her in her dreams of participating in gymnastics. Originally, when I wrote last week (“Defining Insanity”), the number of victims of Larry Nassar, team doctor at Michigan State University, was publicly being stated at over 150. Today, the number has climbed as high as 265 victims.
Nassar was sentenced severely enough, that he is expected to die in prison. But sadly, there is going to be yet more court actions as further sentencing is forthcoming. And that is what has led to the increase in the number of his victims. In listening to reports, Nassar believed himself to be a “body whisperer” which he probably felt gave him the right to do what he did to all of his victims and that people just did not understand, that is what made his practice work. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The whole point of my “Defining Insanity” post, was that no matter how extreme these stories get, we still keep ending up going through the same cycle over and over. Victim makes an allegation. Victim is discounted, often made to feel as if the problem. Repeat. Incidents made public. Outrage. Denial of knowledge of the abuse. Repeated over and over again.
As was reported in Boyce’s case, Boyce, who was one of many children, non MSU students treated on campus, she was made to believe she was the problem. Denial that Nassar did anything. Boyce was made to believe that she simply did not understand what was being done to her. No one would be notified. This would stay within the four walls of MSU. People she looked up to in the MSU Youth Gymnastics program had not only let her down. But by being complicit, over 265 victims are now the latest count.
Defining insanity. The Catholic Church priest sex scandal. The sex scandal at Penn State involving Jerry Sandusky. These were all major publicized events, and yet, here we are again. The definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result.
All it would have taken was for not just the first victim to be believed, but even within the first dozen victims if even that many were needed.
I have often found myself wondering about those adults in my childhood, especially teachers in high school, where comments were often made about certain teachers and possible inappropriateness. Might the rumors have been true, and we were all just led to believe they were not? Were fellow students being abused, and shamed into secrecy? Were any of my friends made to think they were the problem?
And then there is the “how” this could happen. That is an easy one. It is all about “power”. Because dreams are so high, yet success limited in numbers, opportunities are far and few. And that power is held over heads to keep a victim compliant. To have any success, keep your mouth shut. And it does not matter what the pursuit in life is. And this does not happen to just children. As we are finding out with the “Me Too” movement, it happens to plenty of adults as well, female AND male.
How many is too many before a complaint is taken seriously? How, with all the publicity, things like this still occur? How do we keep letting abusers get into positions that enable them to feed their needs to abuse?
As a father of two teenage girls, this is my reality now. And it should make no difference if I had sons either. But I would hope, that if anyone would put my daughters in a situation that clearly was unacceptable, that my daughters feel they could trust the adults in their lives, myself, their mother, a teacher, a friend’s parent, as many as it took to deal with the situation. But to do this, we need to believe their claim right from the beginning. We cannot afford to be complicit and just blow it off. Perhaps just even as bad, if we are made aware of such a claim of another child, not even our own, we still have that responsibility to act, even if not our own child.
Of course, there is the risk of the accused perpetrator being an innocent victim themselves of a vicious rumor campaign by mean and vindictive students or adults, retribution for a denial of an opportunity that was sought and denied. And this has its own consequence as a career can be ruined, and a family destroyed.
But as an average human being, without training in recognizing and dealing with sexual abuse, we are not qualified to make the determination, which is a legitimate accusation, and which is not.
Think about it, and the investigations will reveal just how many people at MSU knew what was happening. The number is now over 265. How many people were told, then made the victims to accept the blame? How many people knew, and then turned their backs? If the victim count is 265… how many people knew? And this is just the MSU situation. There have been so many other institutions rocked by this type of scandal, and there probably will be more.
The question is, do we just keep doing the same thing, over and over again? It is time to take the first complain seriously, whether our child or not.