The amount of institutional failure involved in the failure to stop Larry Nassar is truly staggering. MSU and USA Gymnastics deserve all the criticism they’ve gotten and much more, but there’s also federal law enforcement:
For more than a year, an F.B.I. inquiry into allegations that Lawrence G. Nassar, a respected sports doctor, had molested three elite teenage gymnasts followed a plodding pace as it moved back and forth among agents in three cities. The accumulating information included instructional videos of the doctor’s unusual treatment methods, showing his ungloved hands working about the private areas of girls lying facedown on tables.
But as the inquiry moved with little evident urgency, a cost was being paid. The New York Times has identified at least 27 girls and women who say that Dr. Nassar molested them between July 2015, when he first fell under F.B.I. scrutiny, and September 2016, when he was exposed by an Indianapolis Star investigation. Some are among the youngest of the now-convicted predator’s many accusers — 265, and counting.
The three alleged victims then at the center of the F.B.I.’s inquiry were world-class athletes; two were Olympic gold medalists. Nearly a year passed before agents interviewed two of the young women.
The silence at times drove the victims and their families to distraction, including Gina Nichols, the mother of the gymnast initially known as “Athlete A”: Maggie Nichols, who was not contacted by the F.B.I. for nearly 11 months after the information she provided sparked the federal inquiry.
“I never got a phone call from the police or the F.B.I.” during that time, Gina Nichols, a registered nurse, said. “Not one person. Not one. Not one. Not one.”
Well, slow-walking an investigation into a serial sexual abuser hardly seems like a firable offense, unlike refusing to violate protocol and make confirming that redundant emails were immaterial to a closed investigation into a trivial offense a five-alarm priority.
All Larry Nassar had to do to get investigators off his case in 2004 was say he was doing medical treatment, according to police documents released by Meridian Township police. The reports, released today, catalogue the steps police took when Brianne Randall (now Brianne Randall-Gay) came to them with her mother in 2004, saying Nassar had touched her breasts and tried to penetrate her vagina with his fingers during an exam. According to the records, Nassar—who is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison following his guilty pleas on multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct—told officers that what he was doing was medical treatment. He gave them a PowerPoint presentation to prove it. And they believed him, closing the case soon afterward without talking to anyone else. The final notation in the report is a call to Randall-Gay’s mother, telling her the case will be closed.
How many women told law enforcement officials a similar story — Nassar digitally penetrating them without gloves and lubrication and fondling their breasts and buttocks, all without any advance warning let alone consent — and in response received no investigation beyond taking Nassar’s word for it, despite the extraordinary implausibility of the idea that this was legitimate treatment for sports injuries? I’ve lost count, but it’s a substantial number. Patriarchy is a hell of a drug.