Gymnasts including Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles gave heartbreaking testimony Wednesday during a Senate hearing that examined the 2015 FBI’s botched investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse against the former doctor of the American gymnastics team Larry Nassar.
“These people have clearly violated policies and been negligent in the performance of their duties, and in doing so, more girls have been abused by Larry Nassar for over a year,” Maroney told the judiciary committee. of the Senate.
“Not charging these officers is a disservice to me and my teammates; it is a disservice to the system that was built to protect us all from abuse; it was a disservice to all the victims who suffered needlessly at the hands of Larry Nassar after I spoke, ”added Maroney, who was the first gymnast to speak with the FBI. “Why are public servants, whose job it is to protect, getting away with it? ”
Nassar, who is effectively serving a life sentence for sexually abusing hundreds of child athletes, was reported to the FBI in 2015 by several gymnasts. Two Indianapolis-based FBI agents, however, took no action until more than a year later. A Justice Department report released in July found that the FBI Indianapolis office made “fundamental mistakes” in investigating Nassar, including withholding and fabricating information in their reports to FBI headquarters about their interviews with him. the victims of Nassar.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the fabricated statements made by the two FBI agents “could have jeopardized criminal investigations by including false information that could have bolstered Nassar’s defense.”
Nassar abused at least 70 young athletes in the 15 months the FBI should have investigated the complaints, senators said at the hearing on Wednesday.
One of the main field agents, Special Agent Jay Abbott, went so far as to look for a job with USA Gymnastics while he was supposedly investigating Nassar. One of the officers was terminated for misconduct; Abbott, the older of the two, was allowed to retire in 2018.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday that Abbott was able to retire, “to my great frustration,” before the agent’s misconduct came to light.
Maroney, Raisman, Biles and fellow gymnast Maggie Nichols, who all testified Wednesday morning, were serial sexually assaulted by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment. During their testimony, they called on several institutions affiliated with Nassar – including USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and Michigan State University – not to protect them and other young athletes.
“I ask that your work be guided by the question that Rachael Denhollander and many others have asked, ‘How much is a little girl worth?’ Biles said, referring to the first woman to report Nassar, before bursting into tears.
“I sit before you today to raise my voice so that no little girl has to endure what I, the athletes at this table, and the countless others who have suffered needlessly under the guise of Nassar’s medical treatment as we do. let’s continue to endure today, ”Biles added. “We have failed and we deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. “
Why do public servants, whose job it is to protect, get away with it?
McKayla Maroney, Olympic gymnast
The FBI joins a long list of organizations that have prioritized gold and silver over child safety, Raisman said.
“Just as it is naive to assume that the problem lies only with Nassar, it is unrealistic to think that we can grasp the full extent of the guilt without understanding how and why the USAG and USOPC chose to ignore abuse for decades, ”she said. “And why the interaction between these three organizations has led the FBI to ignore our reports of abuse.”
Raisman called for truth and transparency in the Nassar investigations, a demand survivors have been making for five years.
“We just can’t solve a problem that we don’t understand,” she said. “And we cannot understand the problem unless and until we have all the facts.”
An emotional senator, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Who was a leader in the Congressional investigation into Nassar, said that “the failure of the FBI had real human consequences”, adding that it was was “the ultimate abuse of authority”.
Wray, who took office as FBI director in 2017 after the Nassar investigation, addressed senators and survivors in the room in what appeared to be a real statement.
“I want to be crystal clear: the actions and inaction of the FBI employees detailed in this report are totally unacceptable,” he said. “These individuals have betrayed their fundamental duty to protect people. They have failed to protect young women and girls from abuse.
“I would like to make a promise to the women who appeared here today and to all abuse survivors. I’m not interested in just fixing this evil and moving on, ”he later added. “It is my commitment to you that I and my entire management team are going to make sure everyone at the FBI remembers what happened here in heartbreaking detail. We need to remember the pain that occurred when our people did not do their jobs. ”
Several lawmakers, including Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) And Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), have questioned why the Justice Department did not recommend that the two FBI agents be prosecuted for their actions.
“When we asked them [the Department of Justice] to bring someone in to explain this today, they refused and said they would not participate, ”said Durbin. “I understand that it is the department’s procedure not to enter into the basis of the decision not to prosecute, but it is – at first glance – evident that these officers not only failed in their duty when were these young women, but also did their best to cover up what happened.
Horowitz pivoted repeatedly when asked such questions, explaining that the department does not make formal recommendations to prosecutors on such matters.
In one of the most poignant moments of the hearing, Raisman spoke about how a victim’s healing process is affected by those investigating the abuse.
“To be here today is to take everything I have,” she said. “My main concern is to hope that I have the very energy to get out of here. I don’t think people realize how much it affects us, how much PTSD, trauma affects us.
“I have often asked myself: will I ever feel better? “
Need help? Visit RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center website.
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