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What Is To Be Done With Those Who Enabled Larry Nassar?

by David Teitelbaum (Principles: It all begins with Respect. ) - 1 year ago

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They deserve our anger and scorn - unless they take the lead in making sure that powerful adults are never again given free reign to abuse helpless children.

Justice, to the fullest extent allowed by law, has been done to Larry Nassar, the athletic trainer who sexually abused more than 150 young girls.  The heart-rending statements of his victims, including Olympic gymnastics champions McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman, have ensured that he will spend the rest of his life in prison and never harm another little girl.   

Locking Larry  Nassar up, however, is the easy part. The harder question is what to do with the countless others who enabled him to continue committing his horrific crimes over a 25 year span. Those people include friends, co-workers, supervisors, Michigan State and USA Olympic officials, investigators, and, perhaps most tragically, the parents of the victims themselves. A few were criminally negligent and, hopefully, they too will be punished by the law. The remaining enablers, however, officially committed no crime and will therefore never see the inside of a jail. They are the ones who were too trusting, too naïve, too afraid to come forward, or simply too caught up in their own lives to pay attention. See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil, allowed evil to wreak havoc in the lives of innocent children for 25 long years. 

My first reaction when thinking about these enablers is rage. How could they let this happen? How could they allow a powerful man to be alone with helpless girls? How could they send these girls into a closed room with the shades down after telling the girls that it was OK for this man to touch any part of their bodies? And finally, when some girls were brave enough to complain, how could they ignore those complaints? Even writing these words is enough to send my blood pressure to unhealthy levels.

I want these people to be punished. I want them to suffer from shame and guilt for not protecting children who were entrusted to them. I want their employers to sanction, demote, even fire them from their jobs. They deserve to have to pay huge legal bills even if they ultimately are found to be technically not guilty of any crimes.

And then I calm down a bit and ask myself the question I don’t want to face – would I have behaved differently? I certainly hope so but can I really be sure that I would have believed the word of a child over that of a respected, accomplished, gentle professional who had worked with children for years? Would I have done better than those who undoubtedly will face severe consequences in their careers, their social lives and in dealing with their own consciences?  My anger at what they have allowed to happen makes it hard for me to feel sympathy for them, but, could a case be made that they are also victims of Larry Nassar?  

Maybe the answers to these questions lies in looking forward rather than in looking back. My proposal is that rather than condemning them, we encourage these “victims” to make amends. Let's declare a "public amnesty" for anyone who comes forward, admits they were one of Nassar’s enablers, and agrees to perform at least 500 hours of public service. The amnesty would not protect them if they have committed a crime but it would count in their favor with judges, employers, and especially, with family, friends, and neighbors.   

Their public service would specifically involve educating the rest of the country about their mistakes. In hindsight what should they have done to protect these girls? What warning signs did they miss? Going forward, what should all of us do to protect future victims. The enablers would speak anywhere that adults and children mix including schools, organized sports leagues and religious institutions. They could write op-eds in newspapers, post messages on social media, be interviewed on cable news and by doing so, remind all of us how easy it is for children to be victimized if adults look the other way.  

It is too late to protect Larry Nassar’s innocent victims. We can only hope that the opportunity they were given to confront their tormenter during the sentencing phase of his trial will provide them with some consolation. Their courage inspires all of us and perhaps it will also be an important step in allowing them to leave their terrible memories behind.

But the rest of America must not leave this story behind. The people who enabled Nassar’s monstrous activities must now take the lead in ensuring that this never, ever happens again. 


Comments and Responses (1)

General Comments
By  Facebook Commenter - 1 year ago
Yes. We have to not only look at perpetrators, but also at the culture that enables these things to happen. Everyone is implicated in that. When I have said, “ boys will be boys”, I am participating in a culture that refuses to hold men accountable for their actions. This is connected to the problem. This is not a time to simply point fingers at bad guys, (of which there are countless) but also to shine the light inward. What can I do to protect the people in my life from ever suffering this abuse AND the further traumatization of feeling that they will not be believed if they do ever tell. We all have to do better. Thank you.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Beautifully said. Thank you.