By Aashna Gupta
“I was not molested by my coach, but I was molested by Dr. Larry Nassar, the team doctor for USAG. I was 15 years old, and it was under the guise of medical treatment for my back.”
– one of the victims, sexually assaulted by Lawrence G. Nassar.
With the sudden wave of Internet feminism that has arrived owing to women opening up about their dark, heart-wrenching experiences of being sexually harassed and assaulted through the #MeToo campaign, headlines incriminating high profile celebrities and personalities for sexual harassment are emerging more and more frequently.
But our case in point here had emerged much before that. It emerged almost 16 months before the Harvey Weinstein scandal when someone dropped in a quiet, yet powerful email to the Indianapolis Star daily.
In 1993, Larry Nassar received a doctorate in osteopathic medicine. In 1996, he became the national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics.
His line of profession entails him using his hands to move a patient’s muscles and joints with techniques that include stretching, resistance, and subtle, gentle pressure. However, after several testimonies, it came forward that he sexually assaulted his patients under the pretext of medical care while he penetrated the patients’ vaginas and anuses with his bare hands.
He was in a position of absolute authority over his victims, and he shamelessly used that authority to force them to submit to the penetration. He also was accused of touching some of his patients’ breasts and getting sexually aroused while treating them.
A staggering 156 women spoke against him in an open court.
156 WOMEN. THAT IS A 3 DIGIT NUMBER. HE SURPASSED BILL COSBY.
You, I and any other woman (or men for that matter) reading about Larry Nassar must be feeling enraged by now. It’s natural to get emotional as well because your unpleasant memories of you getting groped, abused or assaulted come rushing back. You too, feel their pain. And that’s how Michigan Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, presiding over Larry Nassar’s case too felt like.
There’s something extraordinary and maybe terrifying about women exerting power. Women demanding equal rights, treatment, pay and respect, women dominating and punishing men make certain people’s skin crawl in disgust.
Critics have risen from their graves and Aquilina has received severe backlash for sentencing a sexual offender up to 175 years on top of the 60 he’s already serving on child pornography charges, in jail. Her scathing comments on Nassar were perhaps too harsh. Harsher than when Nassar blatantly, shamelessly abused young, ambitious girls who put their faith and trust in him.
She stated that it was her “privilege” to impose what she termed signing Nassar’s “death warrant”, which according to some was an uncalled for comment.
The people who care about everything good, happy and neutral in this world have piped up about how a judge’s role is only limited to an impartial arbiter and should be restricted by the law, and not guided by emotions or personal vengeance against the perpetrator.
And I agree with it, 100%. Judges should remain absolutely impartial but what Aquilina did wasn’t an embodiment of personal hatred against Nassar, it represented the feelings of probably every woman present in the courtroom.
You’d imagine getting reduced to a pile of angry, hot tears when you’d hear woman after woman recounting about how Nassar abused her and raped her. Aquilina didn’t move to tears. She only grew more angry and stern. She only became more determined to seal Nassar’s fate and deliver justice to the 156 women who testified before her.
A JUDGE’S WORK IS TO DELIVER JUSTICE, NOT THERAPY
You should never expect a judge to mince his/her words for someone who kills, steals or rapes. Judge Aquilina can’t be admonished and doubted for doling out some harsh, bitter words to a man who admitted, (yes, admitted) that he sexually assaulted several dozens of women.
When she allowed the victims to tell their stories of abuse, Judge Aquilina was only honoring, not contradicting, a time-sensitive tradition of the judicial system. Nassar wrote a 6-page letter to Judge Aquilina, saying how ‘hard it is for him to listen to the testimonies of his victims’.
Aquilina tossed the letter aside like a queen. Some people called the act unprofessional on her part.
Larry Nassar lost the right to ‘professionalism’ when he sexually assaulted all those girls one after the other.
Aquilina also said, “Our Constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment. If it did, I have to say, I might allow what he did to all of these beautiful souls—these young women in their childhood—I would allow someone or many people to do to him what he did to others”, upon hearing woman after woman recounting their nightmares.
This comment amongst others is what caused furore all over.
Some may argue that it was a comment unsuited to a judicial officer, while others myself among them feel that it was not something that wasn’t appropriate, considering the heinous nature of his acts and that it was absolutely not meant to be taken literally. People including the officers of law are all mere human beings who tend to speak out passionate, emotionally laced words when they feel enraged or cheated.
Her words don’t count, the US Constitution’s words do and nobody including Judge Aquilina can change that.
It isn’t a mockery of the judicial system, nothing “circus-like” as pointed out by some, in allowing a display of the victims’ pleas for justice. Judge Aquilina had only served her role as a judicial officer and a woman, simultaneously, when she spoke all those things that couldn’t have hurt Nassar as much as his actions caused pain to those young, innocent girls.
There is nothing inappropriate in a judicial officer being passionate and she spoke only magnificent, inspiring words.
She only did these women good when she sentenced Nassar to 40-175 years in prison for his crimes.
She only helped these women embark on a cathartic journey when she uttered these few simple words, “Leave your pain here and go out and do your magnificent things…”.
Image Credits: Google Images
You’d Also Like To Read: