In the last week, events in a Michigan courtroom have shocked and saddened parents, officials and female athletes.
Dozens of women provided powerful victim statements against Larry Nassar, a disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor and Michigan State University physician. The statements were given during hearings to determine how long Nassar would be sent to prison for multiple sex crimes against those athletes.
Local parents followed the testimony this week with dismay.
Ben and Becky Bolser of Liberty Twp. have two kids. Sophia is 18 and is involved in Tai kwon do, and John 13 and active in baseball. They stressed the need for building relationships with those who are coaching or have influence over children.
“I do think that relationships make a difference,” Becky said. “We have always been able to get to know the people coaching our kids so that we know they can be trusted,” Becky Bolser said. “We have close communication with them, and I think those kinds of things are important. I think if you just send your kids off to do something and aren’t paying close attention, that would be an ideal to create a dangerous scenario.”
Erika Reyes of Kettering has three kids — including one now an adult — who have participated in soccer, basketball, gymnastics and other extracurricular sports ranging from high school varsity to club sports. She said Nassar’s actions should remind all parents to monitor what’s happening with their kids.
“All I can say is that the more eyes and ears in youth organizations the better,” Reyes explained. “Maybe it means having adult volunteers around to oversee everything overall. There is no reason to meet with a child one on one when you are coach or leader in a organization.
Wendy Waters-Connell, who was just appointed as the new executive director of the Hamilton YWCA, said she is a survivor of sexual abuse and that she understands how Nassar was able to continue to carry out his crimes, because people never viewed him as a threat.
Hearing from victims, like the athletes who made statements in the Michigan courtroom this month, “bridges the journey to survivorship,” she said. “The gymnasts who spoke up in court against this predator are strong. They deserve our gratitude and our respect for their courage.”