How We Fail Our Children
Image courtesy of Saul Loeb/Pool via Reuters
By Margaret Adams
Simone Biles told Hoda Kotb in her interview with The Today Show in April 2021 that she wanted to continue gymnastics because she wants to make sure that the US Olympic Federation initiated real change following the hundreds of sexual assault victims of former USA Gymnastics Team doctor Larry Nassar.
“I just feel like everything that happened, I had to come back to the sport to be a voice, to have change happen,” Biles said. “Because I feel like if there weren’t a remaining survivor in the sport, they would have just brushed it to the side. But since I’m still here, and I have quite a social media presence and platform, they have to do something. So, I feel like, coming back, gymnastics just wasn’t the only purpose that I was supposed to do.”
When Simone Biles then stepped down from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this past summer, she told the media it was due to mental health reasons.
“I’ll usually persevere and push through things, but not to cost the team a medal,” Biles said.
Watching the gymnastics commentators of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics beat around the bush in every living room, Larry Nassar, was nauseating. I thought, how do we, the American people, allow the abuse and neglect of our most celebrated and talented athletes to go unmentioned. In light of the abuse scandal and brutal media attention, any person would do exactly what she was doing.
On Wednesday, September 15, 2021, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Maggie Nichols testified that they felt betrayed by the investigators who covered Nassar’s case on the Senate floor.
The four elite gymnasts went on in detail to explain how the abuse and the FBI’s neglect to report the abuse affected them.
Biles particularly mentioned how she not only blamed Nassar, but also the “entire system that allowed his abuse,” including USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
“In the 15-month period that FBI officials shirked their responsibility, Nassar abused at least 70 young athletes,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin. “For many of them, this was a continuation, but for others they were abused for the first time while the FBI sat on the case.”
“The impact of this man’s abuse will never be over,”Biles said.
To witness these survivors tell their stories about what had happened before our eyes, as every family watched the Olympics in their living rooms with their loved ones, is unbearable.
When we think about large institutions like the USA Gymnastics Federation, the Roman Catholic Church, and even the FBI, it seems illogical, undreamable that danger to this degree would be mishandled or disregarded. Adults like Larry Nassar, who prey on young children, bet on the public believing that lie.
We fail our children when we refuse to acknowledge that our culture has a convenient blindspot for the sexual assault of girls and boys. Through our silence, we teach them that their pain is deserved, and that somehow, someway, they were at fault. They grow up buying into the culture of secrecy and stigma that allows for pedophiles to continue assaulting children.
I urge you to talk about this; talk about it with your friends, with your parents, with your siblings, with your roommates. The more we talk about the failure of the FBI in protecting these women, the more we recognize ways to rebuild a united understanding that adults who prey on children have no right to asylum in the quiet. They thrive in the quiet, so please use your voice.
“All we needed was for one adult to do the right thing,” said Raisman in her testimony.
Simone Biles recently stated that she regrets not quitting gymnastics before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I do not blame her, and neither should you.