How did Larry Nassar deceive so many for so long?

It has by the fall of 2018 become commonplace to describe the 499 known victims of Larry Nassar as “breaking their silence,” though in fact they were never, as a group, particularly silent. Over the course of at least 20 years of consistent abuse, women and girls reported to every proximate authority. They told their parents. They told gymnastics coaches, running coaches, softball coaches. They told Michigan State University police and Meridian Township police. They told physicians and psychologists. They told university administrators. They told, repeatedly, USA Gymnastics. They told one another. Athletes were interviewed, reports were written up, charges recommended. The story of Larry Nassar is not a story of silence. The story of Larry Nassar is that of an edifice of trust so resilient, so impermeable to common sense, that it endured for decades against the allegations of so many women.

If this is a story of institutional failure, it is also a story of astonishing individual ingenuity. Larry Nassar was good at this. His continued success depended on deceiving parents, fellow doctors, elite coaches, Olympic gatekeepers, athletes, and, with some regularity, law enforcement. Before getting caught, he managed to abuse women and girls whose names you know — Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney — and hundreds whose names you don’t…

Much-loved Larry placed himself in a position of authority in the least-monitored space full of children and proceeded to become the most successful pedophile in sports history. Beyond the choice of medical school, the apparent research interest in the sacrotuberous ligament, the intense focus on a world populated by 11-year-old girls, the useful belief in alternative therapies, there was also this: his incredible brazenness. Nassar molested young girls in his office while their fathers watched. He molested elite athletes under blankets in busy gyms teeming with people. Even a paranoid parent would not have perceived a meeting with a doctor in an open gym, a few feet away, to be an encounter requiring vigilance. Your daughter was safe because you never left her side. When mothers might have a moment of pause, a flicker of suspicion, there was the reassuring thought that no man would try something right in front of them.

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