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When gymnast Jeanette Antolin first walked into the Michigan courtroom where her abuser was about to be served with a life sentence, she felt overwhelmed.
But it was also empowering: She saw scores of other young women who’d also been abused by Larry Nassar, and were now speaking up.
“For so long, I felt like I was kind of by myself,” Antolin, a member of the U.S. national gymnastics team from 1995 to 2000, told On Point Thursday. “To be able to talk to those women and become what Judge Aquilina calls sister survivors — it just brought all that strength and also healing as well.”
Nassar, a former doctor for the U.S. gymnastics team and Michigan State University who sexually abused more than 160 girls, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for his crimes. Combined with child pornography convictions, the sentence means he’ll spend the rest of his life in prison.
And with Nassar's settled — and sealed, by the scores of victims like Antolin who came to the courtroom over the past few days — attention is now turning to the people who protected him, instead of the young girls he abused.
USA Gymnastics bears an enormous amount of responsibility for it, Antolin said.
When the team traveled, the gymnastics governing body didn’t follow its policies and procedures, meaning the girls would be allowed in his hotel room, Antolin said. Antolin herself was abused when the team was on the road.
“Nobody was looking out for our best interests,” Antolin said. “They were just concerned about, when we were on the road, winning medals and making them money.”
But times are changing with the Time’s Up and Me Too movements, Antolin said. Girls who watched her speak at Nassar’s sentencing should know “they are stronger than they think, and their voice does matter,” Antolin said.
“I really was so scared that people weren't going to believe me, that they were going to thrash me, but I feel like now with the momentum that we have going with not just our case but with Me Too movement and Time’s Up, I really feel like people are listening.”
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