Between the the first complaints made to the FBI regarding Larry Nassar’s horrific abuse and the time it actually took for the agency to take action against him, Nassar was able to sexually abuse about 70 girls.
McKayla Maroney was in Tokyo for competition when she told the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the abuse that Larry Nassar had inflicted on her and countless other survivors. The former sports medicine doctor abused over one hundred women, and after Maroney made her initial complaint the agent simply responded: “Is that all?”
Maroney was one of three gymnastics who came forward against Nassar back in 2015. She was the only one interviewed, and the conversation was not properly documented for 17 months. Beyond that, the report completely misrepresented what Maroney told the agent initially. The FBI is also required to refer all allegations of this nature to state and local authorities; they never did.
The FBI didn’t end up pursuing Nassar until fall of 2016 when police officers found over 37,000 images of child abuse. Between the time of Maroney’s initial legal complaint and the time he was actually arrested, it’s thought that he was able to sexually abuse 70 girls. Maroney joined fellow gymnasts and Nassar survivors Simone Biles, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman on Wednesday to speak in front of the Senate about the FBI’s failures to do their job.
“What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?”
The Nassar case is unfortunately a prime representation of the lack of action the FBI normally takes when it comes to investigating claims of sexual violence and abuse. Women across the country who have reported sexual violence more often than not say that the police and prosecutors always respond with disdain and disregard, especially if the accused is an individual in power.
It’s been well documented and studied that sexual violence reports lead to fewer arrests and fewer criminal convictions than any other type of crime. Evidence is often neglected, witnesses are never interviewed, and when it comes to the paperwork sexual violence crimes are often misclassifies as lesser crimes so they take much longer to process.
Rape kits, which are used to collect DNA after a sexual assault, are often used in lengthy, invasive, and sometimes retraumatizing medical exams, and more times than not they remain untested, or get destroyed.
“Sadly, the handling of the Nassar case is emblematic of broader, systemic failures by law enforcement to properly investigate sexual violence and to treat that violence with the seriousness and rigorous inquiry that it deserves.”
Police more often than not will defer to the accounts of the perpetrators over those of the victims. This aversion to believing victims is one of the main reasons Nassar was able to get away with assaulting an unfathomable amount of young girls, while the police let the reports collect dust. Beyond the FBI, Nassar had been reported to local police at least twice for sexual assault; once in 2004 and once in 2014.
Nassar was able to get away with those assaults because he told authorities the procedures were medically legitimate “pelvic floor therapy,” and even made a powerpoint presentation explaining it. If the police brought in an actual medical practitioner, they would’ve called out Nassar immediately for a fraudulent and weak explanation for assault, but the police never contacted anyone.
These systemic failures are why so many survivors don’t come forward against their abusers. During the Senate hearing Chris Wray, FBI director, praised the survivors courage, but did not commit to taking any accountability for the crimes committed. He then insisted the mistakes made were on an individual level, and didn’t reflect the institution as a whole; despite the fact that the FBI has hundreds of stories just like this when it comes to ignoring reports of sexual violence; Jeffrey Epstein being one of the best examples, as he was initially reported to the FBI back in 2006, but wasn’t actually arrested until 2019.
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