Over 150 women found a semblance of closure in a courtroom last month as the gavel dropped on serial sex abuser Larry Nassar. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina held nothing back as she delivered her sentence of up to 175 years in prison in a powerful speech that has left followers of the case either emboldened or questioning if she crossed a professional line. If you missed it, you can read the transcript of Aquilina’s full statement here. I personally applaud Honorable Judge Aquilina for the tenacity in which she delivered Nassar’s “death warrant.”
To me this was a definitive moment in history in which millions of young girls and women everywhere could nod their heads, clench their fists, and declare “NO MORE.”
No more will perverts in positions of power feel invincible.
No more will survivors of abuse wonder if they should blame themselves.
No more will we remain silent.
Following this case has left me overcome with a flooding of emotions. I teeter from disgusted by this man and the lack of action by both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, to inspired by the courage of each survivor when sharing their impact statements. I also can’t help but think back to my high school days, when my water polo and swim assistant coach abused his position of power.
It’s not pleasant remembering that time in my life, mainly because the memories are so vivid I sometimes struggle to shake them off. It’s almost like I’m a freshman back on the pool deck. His hands are all over my bare shoulders and back again, adamant that I seemed tense and needed a massage. Funny he never massaged the boys–they must have been more relaxed.
I’m being teased by some of my teammates for being his girlfriend, because he seems to pay me extra attention. He wants to practice with me a little more often on a close contact defense maneuver. He’s in a speedo and I’m deeply uncomfortable with his closeness in the pool and the remarks by my friends.
I’m not asking for this, but I don’t want to tell him to stop and appear disrespectful.
Out of nowhere my sophomore year we’re told he’s been fired. We’re upset; he was a good coach. What’s the reason? Why no explanation?
We’ve all been gathered into a classroom that night: boy and girl players, parents, administration, the police. We’re being informed that when reviewing a game tape, our head coach discovered footage of the girls’ team in the showers. The assistant coach had hidden the video camera, pointed towards our showers in the locker room. Turns out he may have been doing this for years. There’s a gasp heard around the room. Parents are livid. The boys are embarrassed. The girls? We are ashamed.
We’re at school the next day and there are news crews everywhere. We have to send out false information about our game schedule so we’re not bombarded by the media wanting to interview us. Teachers don’t understand why we are crying in class. That night, a boy I have a crush on instant messages me on AIM saying, “I saw you naked, you looked hot. Brian sold the tapes to a bunch of guys.” It’s not true. He thinks it’s a funny joke, but I still remember the shame burning inside at the idea of boys seeing me naked. I hadn’t even let one kiss me yet.
Most of all, I remember the aftermath.
Because our faces weren’t identifiable, he never saw jail time. For the rest of my high school career some of the students saw the events as humorous. Some called him a legend. When a new assistant coach was hired, we were uneasy. Even now, anytime someone puts an unexpected hand on me, I cringe.
He never sexually violated or abused me in the horrific ways Larry Nassar abused his patients, but I still remember his stare and unwanted touch. At the time I didn’t feel brave enough to confront it. He was a person in power–he was meant to be trusted.
When I watched Judge Rosemarie Aquilina deliver her statement, I didn’t think it crossed a line. I think it sent a message of empowerment to young girls to speak up when something seems wrong.
I think it set a precedent that opened up the door for us to speak up, and accept abuse from positions of power NO MORE.