• Monica Montanari

Who's to Blame?


Today, even more evidence surfaced in the case against former doctor Nassar- evidence that was disturbing and heartbreaking- to put it lightly. As a female (former) athlete in an individual sport that's also heavy into unitards and hairspray and sparkles, it hit a little closer to home. Athletes in individual sports have an experience so different from the team dynamic that it puts us in a category of our own. We're the lone rangers. The ones who can't put the blame on anybody else. The ones who have nobody by our side pushing us or motivating us. Just like practice, competitions, and everything in between, we do it ourselves. So coming from that mindset, I feel such empathy for these girls and women who were put in this horrible situation by a truly horrible person.

but...

the prosecution in this case (the victims and their families) are seeking a 125 year sentence after a judge already sentenced Nassar to 60 years. One-hundred-and-twenty-five. Let that sink in. That's a life sentence and then some. For comparison, the average voluntary manslaughter (literally choosing to murder someone) sentence is between 10 and 20 years in the United States, depending on the state and circumstances.

I'm sorry. I hate to say it too, but this isn't justice. The job of our courts is to serve justice to the people- and with the number of people who were effected, there's definitely a lot of justice to be done. But this man is going to die alone, in jail, while some other person, who raped their son for years until he killed himself (hypothetically) gets 5-10 years. Does this seem justified? There are two ways people will respond. Either with a solid no, or with some type of reasoning about how everybody that's ever committed a crime or anybody that commits sexual assault should be immediately put to death. Get real.

So what's going on here? The courts are trying to set a precedent- trying to send a message on the consequences for these actions, and how seriously this issue is going to be taken. That's great and all. Except...

It doesn't work. If you're molesting children or sexually assaulting people, there's a very high chance that you have a diagnosed or un-diagnosed mental illness. That's not normal. What we're seeing here is the result of the media's intense coverage of the issue magnifying the case. Good for them- except if you're going to do that, cover all of them. Dare I say, the media is responsible for misconstruing the facts in a lot of cases (not saying this is one of those cases, I wouldn't know). They twist the opinions of the public into mirrors of their own.

Listen. Nothing about this case is okay. Nassar is totally to blame; but then again, is he?

There are already procedures in place to avoid these kind of tragic situations- but they were totally ignored. The NCAA and Michigan State received numerous accusations against Nassar (with some speculating as many as 38), without taking action. If you want anything to change, set a precedent here: accountability. Nassar will be doing 175 years in jail- but the president of Michigan State and the NCAA? They just comfortably resigned. Why aren't they doing time? Why do they walk freely when their incompetence allowed this to happen for way longer than it should have (which would be: never).

As athletes, these gymnasts were supposed to be protected- by Michigan State, by the NCAA, and by U.S. Gymnastics- all of which failed miserably. Sure- those responsible may be blacklisted from ever working in that industry again- boo hoo. But, they'll still be able to walk freely after having enabled such unspeakable acts. You want someone to do 175 years for these crimes?

I say you split it up between the perpetrator and his enablers. Set a precedent to all academic and athletic institutions that not only is this a responsibility you owe to your athletes, but a legally binding one that will have serious consequences if not followed. If you want to make an example here, make it clear that if you (and/or your organization) are entrusted with the well-being of anyone, failure to ensure that well-being will have consequences. Then, people will start to see the roles of these leaders not as promotions or jobs, but as serious responsibilities that earn that salary by putting their own freedom on the line.

Just like I advocate that the "three strikes" legislation isn't fair- I've got to be honest. This is absurd. Somewhere else, someone is being charged with similar evidence and getting 5-10 years. And those who silently enabled Nassar's egregious acts to continue should share the same burden that he himself carries- not only emotionally for the rest of their lives, but legally as well.