The newsstand covers will get plenty of exposure just by virtue of being for sale, so I’m making our lead here the so-called digital cover, because it deserves its moment in the sun. This represents the Sister Army of brave women — some still anonymous and not pictured, but no less heroic — who brought Larry Nasser to justice and are still fighting every day, not just for their own health and recovery, but for the others who might be suffering in silence and to force a reckoning from the institutions that turned the blindest of eyes and deafest of ears. The whole story deserves a long and teary read, but I’ll still highlight some of it:
[Rachel] Denhollander testified that a year later she did tell someone. She’d gotten a job at a gym, and the coach was about to send one of the young gymnasts to Nassar. Denhollander described how she’d told the coach that the doctor had abused her (“I was quite explicit,” she told Glamour), yet the coach still referred the child. Denhollander was crushed, she said in court: “I couldn’t protect that little girl.”
The night before the sentencing, the survivors finally met one another for the first time, in a local community center with pizza and cupcakes. First to arrive was Donna Markham. Her daughter Chelsey had been abused by Nassar at age 12. After that, the little girl with a stunning smile turned into a teen with severe depression, spiraled into drug abuse, and took her own life at age 23. Another survivor arrived and comforted Markham. (“We just melded,” she says.) The place filled up with hugs and tears. […] But there was a sense of hope too: A few weeks earlier Nassar had been sentenced to 60 years in federal court on child pornography charges. And advocates working with the team had painted worry stones with words like strength and brave for the survivors to carry into court the next day. Denhollander chose a stone that said “truth.” Larissa Boyce snatched two, one for each hand. “We were just so happy to see we weren’t alone,” she says.
The Sister Army has pushed for legislation including some 40 bills in Michigan and a new federal law that expands the statute of limitations to report sexual abuse to 10 years from when a survivor identifies it (formerly, the clock started when the abuse occurred), and requires athletic organizations to develop clear procedures to prevent, report, and respond to sexual assault. The survivors helped other women come forward and face their abuse too: Following the case, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network saw a 46 percent increase in calls to its National Sexual Assault Hotline.
The sheer force of what these women did, many of them calling upon private pain from when they were young athletes and at their most vulnerable, is astonishing. The cost of speaking up is high, and they paid it anyway. Bless them all.