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By Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County

This is an Olympic year.  I mean that quite literally.  This year athletes will compete in the Winter Olympics.  The very best of the best in just about every sporting event you can think of.  Recently my son and I were learning all about Curling.  I know.  It is such a random sport.  I don’t even really remember how we stumbled upon it, but we both sat mesmerized by the competition that we were watching on TV.  So much in fact, that my son talked me into letting him stay up another 30 minutes so we could watch the end.

I have always loved the Olympics.  Maybe because I am not athletic by any stretch of the imagination.  Maybe because the athletes represent all that is good in our world.  Maybe it is the competitiveness that I don’t feel, but am fascinated by when I see it in others.  Maybe it is the pride when the American flag is raised and the National Anthem is played when our athletes are standing in the spotlight. Maybe it is the endurance, sacrifice and discipline that is displayed by each athlete.

The last couple of weeks we have learned about the sexual abuse that plagued the USA Gymnastics Program. 

It is always so heartbreaking to learn of the legacy that child sex offenders leave behind in the forms of wounded souls.  In this case a doctor, Larry Nassar, was convicted of sexually abusing female athletes in the USA Gymnastics Program.   Wikipedia defines Dr. Larry Nassar as a convicted serial child molester. 

He had 250 known victims.  How many are unknown? 

He was a doctor.  I trust my son’s pediatrician…as in…to me any word she utters is gold.  I have sought advice from her concerning my son’s behavior.  I have looked to her to show me the path to good nutrition and good health for my son.  I have looked to her for his healing when he has been ill.  Every single time she has exceeded my expectations.  One of the reasons is that she is a wonderful person who has mad healing skills.  But really, one of the big reasons is that I am welcome to be in the room with my son when she examines him.  She takes time to tell him what she is doing and why she is doing it.  She educates him about safety and body safety.  It isn’t because she knows what I do in my “real world” job either.  She does this with all her patients and I suspect has since the beginning of her practice.

I cannot imagine the heartbreak these young athletes feel by the betrayal.  The trauma of the abuse is one thing, but that is compounded by the fact that it was perpetrated by someone who was so respected in their world and who was supposed to have their safety and emotional well-being as his number one priority.

I happened to be in my car on one of the days of the sentencing and caught many of the victim impact statements that were read on one of the news radio stations.  It was heart wrenching.  In many cases it was years ago, but their healing could not start until their voice was heard. 

The Judge in this case was criticized by some of the Bench.  I think she was amazing.  She allowed time for each and every victim who cared to come forward to read their truth to the world.  She held Larry Nassar accountable.  She held him accountable when he wrote her a letter saying that it was mental cruelty to make him hear all the victims read their statements.  She held him accountable when he used language like “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.   This Judge is a class act.  She has told the media she will not make statements because it is no longer her story.  It isn’t about her.  She will not talk to media without a survivor present. 

These young women are showing our daughters that you can tell.  You can find safety.  If you are sexually abused, it is not your fault. 

Boys too!  It just happens to be that this man preyed on women who were young and vulnerable.  I am hopeful there will never be another Dr. Larry Nassar allowed to create a legacy of tears.  I am hopeful that other agencies that employ people who have influence over and contact with children, no matter what the venue, will look at their rules and policies and assess the risk of abuse presented to the children they work with. 

We are all responsible.  We should learn.  We should honor the endurance, the sacrifice and defiance of these women athletes breaking the silence.

We should give this promise–Never Again!

Tammi Pitzen