A Culture of Silence: Gymnastics and MSU

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In the wake of the Larry Nassar case, many are asking “why did this happen?” The bigger question is not why; it’s how.

Annie LaBrie, a survivor of Nassar’s abuse and a former gymnast at Twistars, said that the culture of gymnastics is one of silence and blind faith.

“Time after time… I was subjected to these creepy situations with these creepy men that I did not feel I could speak out against because that was the environment. You were taught to sit down, shut up and listen and do what you were told and compete for them,” LaBrie said.

Alyssa Millinoff is a former high school gymnast and echoed similar statements.

“You never question anything they say, because they know. You’re a kid, what do you know?”

Silence isn’t the only thing that plays a role. There is a strong pressure to look a certain way.

“The way you look, the cute factor, all of that is so much more important than the intelligence you have to offer,” LaBrie said.

The long term effects can be devastating.

“I thought I was the only one that dealt with issues of anxiety depression and self harm and destruction,” LaBrie said.

For the victims of Nassar, they also faced another culture of silence at Michigan State University.

“That culture of not believing women and children even to know when something is wrong, that culture is part of MSU and it has been,” said Apryl Pooley, neuroscience research associate at MSU and a sexual assault survivor.

Could these problems be a reflection of our society as a whole?

“This is what happens when you ignore doing the right thing,” Pooley said.

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