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To the People Who Think Larry Nassar's Sentencing Was 'Excessive'

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On the morning Larry Nassar was sentenced, while tears streamed down my cheeks, I sat in my living room in awe. Though it was a bittersweet moment, it was a moment filled with sweet justice. Today a lion roared — excuse me, a lioness — and she roared loudly. Larry Nassar, no “Dr.” in front of his name any longer, as he has been rightfully stripped of his title. While Judge Rosemarie Aquilina did not set out to be a hero, she, along with every victim of Larry Nassar are my heroes. These women knew they were facing a demon bigger than just one little man, still they bravely came forth and brought his darkness into the light.

Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography, with an additional 175 years from Judge Aquilina. It is a far cry from a six-month sentence, with parole in three months. Her sentence was bold — it is an assurance any light of day he ever sees, will only be from behind bars.

As I read over the posts from various media outlets, my emotions turned from elation at justice being served… to frustration. The ink was barely dry on Nassar’s sentencing papers, before individuals were claiming his life sentence was an excessive punishment. Really? I thought. His span of abuse dates back more than 20 years… 20 years of him methodically deceiving and abusing his victims… 20 years of Olympic and college officials looking the other way. Over the past week, 156 brave individuals read their victim impact statement in court. In case you were not following this story, the number 156 is not exaggerated. Judge Aquilina opened her court room to every victim — returning something else that had been stolen from each of them… their voices. She told one of the victims, “Leave your pain here and go out and do your magnificent things.” What a gift.

Nassar claimed listening to his victim’s statement was too mentally hard. I wonder if he ever stopped to consider the lifetime of mental anguish, which he personally and willfully instilled upon his victims.

I am certain each of his victims also wished they were still naïve to his perverse actions. However, unless you have been a victim of rape or sexual abuse, words of criticism need never pass over your lips. Unless you have survived the heinous act of being violated and lived to tell of the unspeakable atrocities done to you, you do not get to say words like, “excessive” and “I am tired of hearing about this crap.” Until you fully comprehend the feeling of your PTSD waking you up, night after night, with what most people refer to as nightmares, you should not be allowed to pass judgment. Then again, if you were a rape survivor you would not dare say or do any of those things. Why? Because in your heart you know what a victim may be feeling… in your heart you know what daily battles they may be facing… in your heart… you just know.

The #MeToo movement is not a fad — it is not disappearing any time soon. Until individuals like Larry Nassar are no longer walking free, you are going to continue hearing victim’s stories. We have one of the precious luxuries Larry Nassar stole from his victims — we have a choice. We can either continue victim-blaming survivors or we can be part of the solution. We can listen when a victim speaks, we can believe their story, we can stop victim blaming, we can stop someone when they make fun of a rape victim… we can stop. 

We need to stop being like mice, cowering in corners, observing a culture that accepts rape and sexual abuse. We need to become lions who roar and send depravity scurrying back from whence it came. It was the mice who permitted the creation of a monster such as Larry Nassar, allowing his reign of terror to continue… until today… when a lion roared.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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Screenshot via NBC News Twitter 

Originally published: February 12, 2018
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