Friday, March 9, 2018

Parenting in the Wake of the Larry Nassar Scandal

Larry Nassar has been sentenced to a lifetime in jail.

And, this week, the first male came forward, saying that he too was abused by the hands of this man.

When the Nassar trial aired. I turned in expecting story of the gymnastics world rocked to its core.

What I found was something much different.

The sister survivors came forward one at a time sharing memories difficult to hear, courageously addressing a man who tried to steal their voice only to find out they would use it for themselves and for us.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina transformed the courtroom from a place of intimidation into a sanctuary. Extending invitation for all to speak with underlying awareness that they were believed seemed to give survivors bravery to vent anything they needed. And, then, Judge Aquilina gifted each individual with words of encouragement to reinforce their unique significance. Affirming value of all people, speaking life into painful places every opportunity we get, and encouraging what can be redeemed while ending what can’t are take aways that will forever stay with me.

But, what rattled me most was the systemic failure that allowed this ongoing abuse to inflict over 200 multisport athletes for decades. This was not a story of gymnastics, but one of athletics and twisted medical “treatment.” Nassar and any professionals who knew in secret used their position of power in way that left the medically na├»ve vulnerable, rendered those with dreams silent, and parents unaware.

It adds a whole new layer to conversations around abuse.

Sappho once said, “What cannot be said will be wept.”

This is most certainly true now.

If we are to honor the hundreds of women and young man who came forward to put into air what tormented their soul we, as parents, need to continue the discussions in our homes. The hearts of these young people indicate that they want more than a day of reckoning with Nassar and the institutions that failed them. They want to prevent history from repeating itself.

This is room for prevention. To be a safe space for our children in body awareness discussions so they know they can always come to us and to reinforce boundaries. It is our opportunity to build on the #MeToo movement momentum, yielding confidence and turning tables on the placement of shame dare someone ever cross the line.

How this looks will vary depending on our boys and girls ages. Our twelve-year-old daughter is a stud on the volleyball court. I sat down with her and told her exactly how this abuse happened and why the girls confused it as medical care. I also gave her “Breaking Their Silence” advise that should she go down during a match to request a parent/trusted adult with her in the room she is taken to and always ask the physician/trainer what they will be doing before any treatment begins, in addition to reviewing basic boundaries we’ve always taught.  With our younger girls it’s simple reminder that nobody touches their body without them saying it’s okay at the simple mention of something like a peer grabbing their hand to create early understanding of consent we can expand upon as they age.

These conversations are not fun. They don’t guarantee that abuse won’t occur. And, it might feel awkward to broach. But, abuse – twisted medically or not- in interpersonal relationships and within systems (need I remind you of Jerry Sandusky, US swimming and the list goes on) isn’t going away. Now, with this opened door, is the time to swoop in and give our young people every tool in our tool box to better set them up for future success and give them comfort in you being “their person.”

Rachel Denhollander, the final sister survivor to speak, asked,“How much is a little girl worth?” I’ve got three in my house and they are priceless. I know you feel the same about your children. Fight for their safety. Take hold of the bigger good that can come from this story. Have the discussions.

Trying my best along with you,

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