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Foss: Too many people enabled Larry Nassar's abuse

Foss: Too many people enabled Larry Nassar's abuse

Case is disgustingly similar to pedophilia scandals that rocked Catholic Church, Penn State
Foss: Too many people enabled Larry Nassar's abuse
A woman holds a sign as students gather to listen to speakers during a protest Friday at Michigan State University.
Photographer: The New York Times

I didn't make any New Year's resolutions this year. 

For whatever reason, Jan. 1 came and went without a lot of introspection on my part — without any real consideration of my goals and hopes for the next 12 months. 

Of course, it's possible to make a resolution at any time of year, and that's what I found myself doing last week while reading one horrifying story after another about Larry Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics and sports medicine physician at Michigan State University. 

Nassar, we now know, sexually abused more than 150 young athletes in his care. 

That's appalling, but what really gets my blood boiling are the ongoing revelations about all the people who turned a blind eye to Nassar's predatory behavior. 

If not for powerful enablers, it's unlikely Nassar's regime of terror would have lasted so long. Unfortunately, too many people decided protecting the institutions they served was more important than responding to credible complaints of abuse from powerless girls. 

This isn't the first time we've seen a scandal like this. 

It's disgustingly similar to the pedophilia scandal that rocked the Catholic Church and to the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, to name two of the bigger sex-abuse scandals of the past two decades. 

Like the Larry Nassar scandal, these were made worse by the realization that powerful people knew what was going on — but covered it up and looked the other way. 

It seems obvious that this is not the way to behave when confronted with credible allegations that someone you know is sexually abusing children and teenagers. 

And yet far too many people — people who are adults, people who should know better -- have failed at the most basic task required of decent human beings: Do the right thing when it really matters. 

The more I read about Nassar, the more disgusted I became. 

Why, I wondered, didn't anyone stop him? 

Then I found myself wondering how I would behave in similar circumstances. No child or teenager has ever come to me with an allegation of abuse. How certain could I be that I would do the right thing? Perhaps doing the right thing is harder than it looks. 

Perhaps. 

But the fact that doing the right thing can be hard is no excuse for not doing it — not when the health and safety of children and teenagers are on the line. 

That's why I decided I needed to make a resolution: If anyone ever comes to me with an allegation of abuse, I will take action. I won't look the other way, or dismiss it, or cover it up. 

I wish I could say the Larry Nassar story is the last of its kind, but I suspect we'll hear more stories like it — more stories of adults who failed to do the right thing when faced with allegations of abuse. 

Bringing an end to these stories requires being prepared to take action should the opportunity present itself. 

And while it won't necessarily be easy, it's the right thing to do. 

Too many people at Michigan Sate University and USA Gymnastics failed to understand this, and their failure came at great cost.

Powerful people are starting to pay the price for their inaction, but it won't undo the abuse that went on for years. If there's anything to be learned from this sordid saga, it's how to behave when confronted with credible allegations of abuse. Look at what these people did — and do the opposite. 

Reach Daily Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.

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