Right now, the world of American gymnastics is immersed in one of the worst scandals in its history. Former Michigan State University and USA national team doctor Larry Nassar is facing 22 felony charges and more than 100 allegations of sexually abusing underage teen and children gymnasts under his care. The story boiled over late last year as a slew of accusers stepped forward, and this week one more woman opened up about her experience: Larissa Boyce's story exemplifies what the gymnastics sexual assault scandal comes down to, and what the stakes are for the Senate hearings that started Tuesday.
Boyce, now 36, was just 16 when she says she was repeatedly sexually abused by Nassar, who has denied the dozens and dozens of allegations against him. It's claims like hers — and the dozens of other women who've accused Nassar of sexual predation under the guise of medical care — that resulted in a Senate hearing named Protecting Young Athletes From Sexual Abuse on Tuesday, aimed at implementing reforms and requirements for reporting of such sexual abuse claims.
Boyce wasn't in attendance, to be clear: Former Olympic gymnast Jamie Dantzscher, a member of the USA's 2000 bronze-medal winning team who similarly claims she was abused by Nassar, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Nassar has denied all wrongdoing.)
As Boyce told Huffington Post for a lengthy and highly personal story, she was sent to Nassar by her instructor after injuring her lower back on a springboard. She writes that she was excited, thanks to his towering reputation within the world of organized gymnastics.
After her mother attended the first few appointments, Boyce went to see Nassar alone, and that's when she alleges the MSU doctor digitally penetrated her — passing the abuse off as part of the treatment, she says. (MSU does not comment on pending litigation against the university.) Boyce says she knew something was off, but "justified" it to herself due to his reputation.
According to the Lansing State Journal, one other gymnast spoke up about a similar experience with Nassar — but he still wasn't reported to the authorities, nor were Boyce's parents informed. Speaking to press at the office of her attorneys after going public with her story for the first time, Boyce called Nassar a "predator and manipulator."
I'm only one of the voices, one of the silent screams, one of the hundreds of lives that have been affected by a man who grossly abused his power and trust — a predator and manipulator. How does something like this happen and go on for so long?
If you care about these issues and respect the steps that Boyce and Dantzscher have taken, then it's worth paying attention to this story going forward.
As for Nassar, he'll be facing a criminal trial. According to the Detroit Free Press, in addition to the slew of sexual assault allegations against him, an FBI agent testified late last year that a search of his computer revealed tens of thousands of pieces of child pornography. If the 53-year-old Nassar is convicted, he will face life imprisonment.