Sexual Assault is Finally Being Taken Seriously in the United States


written by Nikole Metz as part of the Vienna Masters in Human Rights Program


In the Age of the #MeToo Movement the Women who Testified Against the Disgraced U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Coach Give Strength to other Girls.

The introduction of the #MeToo Movement has been changing the way that we look at sexual assault. Not only in the United States but across the world. Despite criticism, women are being heard and one of the most important cases involving sexual assault provided hundreds of women to testify and read statements in front of the court and their abuser. Their words were heard around the world, they will have a profound impact on anyone who heard them, and the sentence will forever sit in the minds of those who followed the trial and those that looked in at the last minute.

Historically, sexual assault and rape have existed and persisted and trickled down into today’s culture. With many TV shows and movies portraying rape and sexual assault as things that happen, it creates an interesting challenge when it comes to education of persons on why partaking in those attacks is not acceptable behaviour. That is one of the most widely claimed statements used in the U.S. currently. That it is hard to teach people to abstain from these acts when they are so widely portrayed on TV and in movies. This however is no excuse. There is no excuse, no reasoning, and no justification for sexual assault or rape. There should be no victim blaming and no statements regarding the behaviour or the dress of the women when they were sexually abused because it is not the responsibility of the women to make sure they are not abused.

In the previous years more women and men have been coming forward to accuse individuals either committing a sexual assault or rape against them. Many of the accusers have been well known persons as they are in the entertainment industry and those they are accusing are also very powerful and influential people in the entertainment industry. Harvey Weinstein has been one individual who has been accused by multiple women of sexual violence against them.

One outstanding case that was also very popular in the news was the case of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner – who was accused of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. During his trial so much was stressed on how this would negatively impact his life, and his swimming times were even published in multiple articles that were posted on the case. He was given an incredibly lenient sentence as the judge believed more time in prison would have severe negative impact on Turner. However, the judge seemed to completely disregard the impact the rape had on the woman. This brought about an uproar of activists claiming that this is what permeates rape culture –  the life quality of the rapist being put above that of the victims.

After his release Turner gave a statement that it was the culture of binge drinking that caused him to perform the assault.

However, the cases involving those in the entertainment industry are not the ones that have been  most talked about. It was the conviction of Larry Nassar that has pulled media attention to the atrocities that were committed against young girls.

Before this, Larry Nassar was an award-winning doctor, working for both the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team and University of Michigan. However, many girls went to see Larry Nassar for the renowned treatment that he was so well known for. These girls though did not get any treatment that made them feel better. Instead they were sexually assaulted at the hands of someone they were told to trust, told would make them feel better.

The assault lasted for years and did not only occur in the U.S. as former Olympic Gymnasts stated that he provided ‘treatment’ for them before their competitions in Rio, London, and also before World Championships. For years this abuse has been going on and it was time for the truth to come out and for Larry Nassar to be sentenced to what he deserved. He was sentenced from 40 to 175 years for the crimes that he committed against these women.

These women gave testimonies of the abuse that they experienced at the hands of Larry Nassar, while some family members of the women also provided testimony along with one mother whose daughter committed suicide ten years ago.

Many of the women talked about what a horrid man he was and how they are appalled that he was able to get away with abusing girls for so long. Many blamed U.S. gymnastics and University of Michigan athletics for knowingly recommending and sending their athletes to him for treatment after he had first been accused of abuse. Many testimonies discussed how he would abuse them even with their parents in the room and how when they tried to speak out against him he was able to convince their parents that they were simply mistaken. Despite all this, the girls have turned into strong women. These girls have become women who will not stand for sexual abuse to be tolerated in any form.

Their voices will resonate not only in the mind of Larry Nassar but of everyone who followed the trial or read any report of the trial. These statements have the power to give hope and strength to other young girls and women who have suffered from sexual violence. These individuals standing up and speaking for themselves show the strength that exists within a person and how you can get stronger and move on from what has happened. That girls need to be believed when they make these claims. It can no longer be looked at from the statement of the accused and how he defends himself. If the first person who accused Larry Nassar of abuse had been listened to, it would have prevented the abuse of a hundred other girls. The amount of suffering that occurred because of Larry Nassar is despicable, and the amount of suffering that could have been prevented is profound.

The sentence given to Larry Nassar shows that sexual abuse will no longer sit on the back burner. It is real and it is very prevalent in today’s society. No longer will people get away with sexual abuse because they are in a position of power. No longer will the voices of the victims be silenced. No more excuses.

No more reasons for why it happened and no more victim blaming. It is time for the people who commit these horrendous acts to be held accountable for their crimes. From here on out it is our obligation as human beings to listen to the victims and take their claims seriously and no longer protect the perpetrators. From here on out the victims will no longer be referred to as our mothers, sisters, daughters, or friends they will be looked at as people.

As human beings that deserve to be treated better than labels. And hopefully with the sentence that was instilled upon Larry Nassar will be an awakening to future judges, and lawyers that you cannot sidestep sexual assault. And to the victims, that they will be able to heal from their wounds and that they will inspire others to to speak out against their abuse so that their perpetrators will be held accountable as well and that they will be able to heal.

Women, girls, men and boys who are abused will no longer be pushed aside. It is time for every one of us to take a stand and fight against sexual abuse and stand with the #MeToo movement.