Tragic text in sex abuse horror
FORMER US Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney has continued to open up this week about the shocking sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of team doctor Larry Nassar.
She's revealed how the disgraced doctor molested her more than 100 times and said he used kindness as a way of manipulating his victims - but he should never have been allowed to get away with his crimes for as long as he did.
Nassar, who worked as an osteopathic physician for USA Gymnastics, is serving a 60-year sentence in an American federal prison on child pornography charges. He also was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in Michigan, as well as 40 to 125 years on sexual assault charges.
More than 200 women have come forward accusing Nassar of abuse.
He was sentenced in 2017, but Nassar's behaviour had gone unpunished for years even when those in his care knew they were at risk.
According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), when Maroney was alone with Nassar waiting for "treatment" at the 2012 London Olympics, she sent a text message to teammates Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber which read: "Rescue me."
It was a simple message that revealed the fear felt by Maroney and others whenever they were under Nassar's watch.
They knew the horror that was in store for them but - at the time - were powerless to do anything about it.
Raisman and fellow Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas both said they were abused by Nassar, and Raisman wrote about the shocking consequences of what the women were forced to endure.
"Larry abused his power and the trust I and so many others placed in him, and I am not sure I will ever come to terms with how horribly he manipulated and violated me," Raisman wrote last year.
"Shame on all those who actively protected Larry and shame on all those who looked the other way. Those who looked the other way are just as guilty.
"And shame on you, Larry, you are the worst example of humanity."
Wieber told the WSJ the culture of fear embedded within the gymnastics team meant athletes were scared to speak out.
"USA Gymnastics created a culture of silence," Wieber said. "We knew that if we spoke out, we wouldn't have gotten chosen.
"We weren't ever in a position to question his treatments. It just felt like, at the point in time, that we needed him."
In 2015 Maroney told an investigator hired by USA Gymnastics of what Nassar had done to her while pretending it was medical treatment, but her concerns fell largely on deaf ears.
Among the horrors was an account from the 2011 world championships in Tokyo, where Nassar allegedly provided a then-15-year-old Maroney with a sleeping pill and then abused her while she was disorientated.
"He'd given me a sleeping pill for the flight, and the next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a 'treatment.' I thought I was going to die that night," Maroney said.
In a tweet from October last year, Maroney called it the "scariest night" of her life.
The WSJ reports people on the team bus with Maroney the next day recall her saying: "He practically f*****s me."
Last year Maroney's mother Erin wrote a letter to the judge who sentenced Nassar in which she described the horrific nature of her daughter's experiences.
"This experience has shattered McKayla," Erin Maroney wrote.
"She has transformed from a bubbly, positive, loving, world-class athlete into a young adult who was deeply depressed, at times suicidal. At times, I was unsure whether I would open her bedroom door and find her dead.
"I ... learned a few weeks ago from my daughter that at the world championships in Tokyo, (Nassar) drugged her, made her lay nude on a treatment table, straddled her and digitally penetrated her while rubbing his erect penis against her. She was only 15-years-old. She said to me, 'Mum I thought I was going to die.'"
Maroney, now 22, says she was 13 the first time she met Nassar and that he abused her every time she saw him thereafter.
"He said that nobody would understand this and the sacrifice that it takes to get to the Olympics. So you can't tell people this," Maroney told NBC.
"I actually was like, 'That makes sense. I don't want to tell anybody about this.' I didn't believe that they would understand."
Maroney also said Nassar used kindness as a form of manipulation.
His simple gestures shielded a disturbing ulterior motive. Maroney claims he would take advantage of the gymnasts' insecurities, depicting himself as a saviour of sorts, in the midst of competitions.
"Your coaches are just always watching you. And wanting to keep you skinny. And there's just other things about the culture that are also messed up that he used against us," Maroney said.
"I think I would've starved at the Olympics if I didn't have him bring me food.
"(He would) buy me a loaf of bread."
USA Gymnastics has replaced nearly its entire leadership over the last 15 months, including bringing on a new president and board of directors. Michigan State University (where Nassar also worked) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) have also shaken up their leadership in response to Nassar's widespread abuse.
Maroney captured a gold and silver at the 2012 London Olympics and won gold on vault in the 2011 and 2013 world championships, before retiring in 2016.
But she wondered if the heights she reached during her career came at too high a price.
"I at times question if my gymnastics career was really even worth it," Maroney said this week while speaking to the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
"Because of the stuff I'm dealing with now ... You have to pick up the pieces of your life and that has been the hardest part for me. It's always three steps forward, two steps back."
- with NY Post, wires