Victims unite in ‘incredibly powerful’ show of courage
THE 2018 ESPY Awards were the scene for an unforgettable, powerful message of courage delivered by the victims of disgraced Olympic gymnastic team doctor Larry Nassar.
Nassar, who was also convicted for assaulting girls while doctor at Michigan State University as well, was sentenced in January to spend his life behind bars after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting more than 250 women and girls over a two-decade period under the guise of medical treatment.
His victims showed incredible courage to confront him in court last year - but their most powerful message was displayed on Thursday (AEST) when 141 of his victims gathered hand-in-hand on stage at the annual sport awards in Los Angeles in a symbol of their strength and survival.
The display, which occurred at the end of the annual awards show, was just as confronting as it was powerful.
The images of the victims gathered together on stage, being greeted by a round of applause by the biggest names in American sport, left commentators with chills.
The scene's power was hammered home when abuse victim and Olympic champion Aly Raisman declared there were still many of Nassar's victims who were not part of the "sea of bravery" they group formed.
The powerful message was sent as the survivors of Nassar's abuse were awarded the Arthur Ashe ESPY Award for courage.
Many of the victims also told their personal stories of abuse at the hands of Nassar in a series of videos shown during the ceremony.
They left the audience speechless.
Raisman fronted the group of more than 140 women alongside Sarah Klein, who identified herself as Nassar's first victim of sexual abuse, and softball player Tiffany Thomas-Lopez, who was also abused by Nassar.
"Telling our story over and over again in graphic detail is not easy," Klein said.
"It is gruelling and it is painful, but it is time."
Thomas Lopez said: "We stand here and it feels like we're finally winning".
Raisman's own speech was a lot more confronting and damning of the systems and procedures that allowed Nassar to prey on underage women for more than 20 years.
She proceeded to read out a list of years - and then left viewers in shock when she revealed victims reported abuse at the hands of Nassar in every year she had just read out.
Nothing was done about it.
"1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. These were the years we spoke up about Larry Nassar's abuse," Raisman said.
"All those years we were told 'You are wrong. You misunderstood. He's a doctor. It's OK. Don't worry we've got it covered'.
"The intention was to silence (us) in favour of money, medals.
"To all the survivors out there, don't let anyone else re-write your story.
"You are not alone. We may suffer alone, but we survive together."
ESPYS host and former NASCAR driver Danica Patrick ended the show by simply saying: "Wow, what a powerful stage this is. This is something I've never seen before."
It is a scene the women on the stage never want to be seen again.
It left commentators heartbroken.
Unfortunately, the ugly fallout to Nassar's conviction continues to broaden.
Michigan State University earlier this year reached a $US500 million ($667 million) settlement with the hundreds of women and girls who say they were sexually abused by Nassar.
The settlement was announced by the university, where the ex-USA Gymnastics doctor was on staff, and the lawyer representing his more than 300 victims.
The deal includes $425 million that the school will pay to the 332 current claimants and $75 million that will be set aside in a trust fund to protect against any future claims of sexual abuse by Nassar.
There will be no confidentially agreements or nondisclosure agreements attached to the settlement, which was agreed to by the MSU Board of Trustees during a Tuesday night conference call.
Nassar was sentenced to 175 years behind bars in addition to another state term of 40 to 125 years over sex abuse and a federal sentence of 60 years for child pornography.
Earlier this year, Raisman continued to speak out publicly about the role played by US Olympic officials and US Gymnastic officials in failing to take action over allegations against Nassar.
She has suggested previously that officials tried to protect Nassar to cover their own failings to act on initial reports against the doctor.
"It is still hard for me to comprehend that no one did anything about it," she said.
"The US Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics - they put reputations, medals and money above us. It is just awful.''
Other civil lawsuits against Nassar and US Gymnastics remain ongoing.