Two stories this week scream to those in authority and to those without authority- and I would guess that we are all both. In different contexts, we are with and without authority. The stories confront us with the worst of human nature and of the need for vigilance. We only have time for one story. And it deserves our time.
In Lansing, Michigan, Dr. Lawrence Nassar has pled guilty to sexual abuse of girls and young women. Since at least 1992 – over 25 years – he has molested hundreds of girls. Two victims later committed suicide. The father of another victim – abused from the age of six to fifteen – killed himself. Nassar’s victims ranged from “family friends” to Olympic medalists who are household names; he was the lead gymnastics doctor for the U.S. and International Olympic Committees.
A vexing fact every parent should (already) know but which these 100-plus cases prove overwhelmingly is that VICTIMS ARE SO OVERWHELMED THEY SELDOM REPORT such abuse. I personally know two sisters victimized by Nassar. Their family is close; their mother a remarkable pediatrician; their conversations extremely open. But they did not tell their parents until this all broke.
Lead with your best self: Stay awake. Be alert. See something. Say something.
Unfortunately, the story gets worse:
- As early as 1997, 1999 and 2000, at least three women athletes overcame the pain, confusion and stigma to report Nassar’s abuses to Michigan State University coaches and/or head trainers.
- Over time, fourteen MSU officials received reports of Nassar’s abusive behavior, including the MSU police.
- In 2004 local police were notified but do not bring charges.
- In 2014 Nassar’s boss restricts his skin-to-skin contact with patients and requires that he not be alone with them; this gets ignored to the degree that at least 16 more girls allege abuse after this.
- A Title IX complaint gets filed and reported all the way up to the President of MSU in 2014. Enough yet?
- A 2016 Title IX complaint, police allegation and Indianapolis Star article finally result in Nassar’s firing.
- This past week, over 80 victims testified at his sentencing.
- The number is expected to exceed 125 women and girls as deliberations continue.
What’s the point? My point:
Evil and sickness exist. And authority structures protect them.
We defer . . . to men, authorities, MD’s, Professors, titles of all kinds. The deference is perhaps 2% conscious. Instead, it’s deep. Part of our reptilian brains, part of our survival strategy not to challenge those in power, and then drilled into us as obedience, respect, self-restraint.
Authorities need to INVITE dissent. Welcome openness. Tolerate the interrogation – all the way to the top.
And, finally God bless the courage of the girls and women who found a voice and supported each other to find a voice. In turn they have protected how many untold victims.
In there courage is the solace and hope that we too might
Lead with our best selves.