The transformative justice of Judge Aquilina

What they also represented, though, was catharsis. As the #MeToo movement has played out over the last several months, what it’s proven is that there’s a snowball effect when women speak up. In Aquilina’s courtroom, many of Nassar’s accusers spoke of the doubts they experienced about what happened to them, and of wondering whether they could trust their instincts. As their testimony began, their numbers grew and grew. They spoke of finding strength in each other. “All these brave women have power,” the gymnast Aly Raisman told Nassar, “and we will use our voices to make sure you get what you deserve: a life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors.”

Nassar, Aquilina told him, will spend the rest of his life in prison. The legal system begat justice in his case. But the judge who sentenced him managed to do something else as well—to offer renewed faith and hope to the hundreds of thousands of people sexually assaulted each year. Not just that they might one day see their rapists in court, but that they might also be able to transform their trauma into something very different. “Leave your pain here,” Aquilina said on one occasion, in one of the most powerful instructions ever delivered by a presiding judge. “Go out and do your magnificent things.”