Hundreds of young women and girls sexually abused by former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award by ESPN on Wednesday.
In a dramatic walk to the stage, 140 women and girls, including Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, assembled to a standing ovation and the song “I Can’t Keep Quiet” by MILCK.
Nassar was sentenced in February to up to 125 years in prison after 204 testimonies in nine days in Ingham and Eaton counties by women and girls who said he abused them under the guise of treatment for sports injuries.
Actress Jennifer Garner presented the award saying, “We have to hear (their stories) for one, to make sure what happened at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics never happens again, but we also have to hear it because the massive chorus of voices that have emerged from incredible darkness over the last year and are demanding it with poise, unimaginable strength and unbelievable courage.”
The award, named after tennis great Ashe — who died of AIDS in 1993 — was given out during the ESPN’s 25th annual awards gala, the ESPY’s, in Los Angeles.
A 10-minute short film with a montage of photos of the girls and featuring athletes such as Tiffany Thomas Lopez, Jamie Dantzscher, Amanda Thomashow, Jeanette Antolin and others before they walked on stage.
“Speaking up and speaking out is not easy; telling our stories of abuse over and over again in graphic detail is not easy,” said Sarah Klein, the first gymnast known to have been assault by Nassar. “… It’s grueling and it’s painful, but it is time … If one more victim of sexual abuse feels less alone tonight, then our suffering has meaning.”
“1997,1998,1999, 2000, 2004, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 — these were the years we spoke up about Larry Nassar’s abuse,” Raisman told the audience. “All those years we were told ‘You are wrong’ … but we persisted and someone listened and believed us.”
In May, Michigan State University and lawyers for more than 300 victims reached a $500-million settlement in the abuse case.
In its release, ESPN cited the victims’ “undisputed bravery” in speaking out about the decades of abuse at the hands of a once highly acclaimed doctor, saying the “strength and resolve these individuals have shown in speaking out has brought the darkness of sexual abuse into the light and inspired many others to speak up about their own experiences.”
For the full article, see Sarah Rahal, “‘Portrait of survival’: Those abused by Nassar honored at ESPYs“, Detroit News, July 18, 2018; updated July 19, 2018.