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6 Lessons We Can Learn from the Nassar Scandal

Posted in General by SaratogaCFF on Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 3:37 pm
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Photo: Associated Press

Larry Nassar, former team doctor for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, was convicted of multiple counts of first degree sexual misconduct and sentenced to up to 175 years in prison. Over the course of two decades, Nassar abused over 160 young women under the guise of medical treatment, including gold medalists McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Simone Biles. 156 of his victims gave impact statements prior to his sentencing.

Chief Prosecutor and Michigan State Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis said of the women, “They should feel no shame, because they did nothing wrong. He did. These little girls have transformed before our eyes from victims, to survivors, to champions for justice and advocates for change.”

So what can we – as parents, community members, service providers, mandatory reporters, and fellow humans – learn from this? What can we take away from this to ensure that the children in our communities are protected?

  1. When children report abuse, believe them.

In Nassar’s case, many of his victims had reported his behavior over the years, and the adults they trusted to protect them failed to put a stop to it. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, it is estimated that only 4-8% of reports of abuse are fabricated, with the majority of those attributed to adults during custody disputes. When children confide in us, it is our duty to take action.

  1. Talk to your children.

It is never too early to talk to your children about their bodies and boundaries. High profile cases such as these can help open the door for discussion. Click here for more tips about how to start the conversation.

  1. You probably won’t be able to spot a child abuser.

On TV, perpetrators might be portrayed as “creeps.” In real life, they could be anyone – a trusted family member or friend, a football coach, a piano teacher, a doctor. A staggering 90% of children who are sexually abused know the perpetrator in some way. Child abuse does not happen simply because parents are not paying attention – it also happens because abusers earn their trust.


  1. Abusers are experts at grooming.

Grooming is the word used to describe the process that abusers typically follow before abusing a child. It involves identifying a target, earning their (and often their parent’s) trust, and isolating the child both physically and emotionally. Read more about the 6 stages of grooming.

  1. There is help.

If you suspect abuse or maltreatment of a child, report it now. Once a child’s safety has been secured, they can begin processing the trauma that they have experienced. Mental health therapy with a licensed, trained clinician has been shown to ease acceptance of what happened, reduce problematic symptoms, and encourage positive behaviors going forward. At Saratoga Center for the Family, our therapists are trained in evidence-based methods such as Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Progressive Counting – all aimed to help clients process trauma and move forward in a positive, healthy way.

  1. There is hope.

Children who have been abused are not alone. According to the CDC, there were 683,000 victims of child abuse and neglect reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) in 2015. They are not destined to “repeat the cycle.” They are not broken. The Nassar case proves it – his victims went through horrific trauma, and still went on to win gold at the Olympics. Children are resilient. With the proper treatment and support, they can move forward from the trauma and go on to live happy, successful lives.