Continued fallout from the Nassar investigation failures

Instead of the deafening silence vacuum that usually follows revelations of the impact of sex crimes, there is continued discussion of the testimony this week by some of the many victims of Larry Nassar before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the national press, articles are followed by the types of comments and questions I have come to expect, but am still sickened by. Why was the FBI even involved in this case? Where were the parents? Weren’t parents present in the exam room? And wasn’t the great osteopathic doctor using a legitimate pelvic floor manipulation treatment?

The FBI is involved because USA Gymnastics eventually contacted the Indianapolis FBI to relay complaints about Nassar’s sexual abuse in 2015. The abuse happened in multiple states. It involved abuse that occurred while Nassar was the team doctor for not only the national women’s gymnastic team, but also with the United States Olympics women’s gymnastics team. As in national and international crimes. As laughable as it seems in the context of this case, the FBI actually has a Crimes Against Children unit/program. “Why was the FBI even involved” is code for “WTF were these girls, parents and women doing bothering the FBI with such complaints?”

Where were the parents and weren’t some of them in the exam room when Nassar was getting his rocks off in his well-oiled “massage” routine? Nassar landed on “pelvic floor manipulation/massage” as part of his “treatment.” Pretty soon he used it on most of his patients. The problem is:

[M]edical professionals use pelvic floor physical therapy primarily for conditions like persistent pelvic pain, bowel and bladder problems like incontinence, and painful intercourse. It is not the first line of treatment for the kinds of problems that typically afflict gymnasts, like lower back and hip pain, which are less likely to require internal vaginal manipulations, experts say.

Furthermore, physicians generally do not perform the therapy themselves, even if they are, like Dr. Nassar, osteopathic physicians who are trained in hands-on techniques that use stretches and pressure to relieve muscle pain. Doctors who recommend pelvic floor physical therapy usually refer patients to physical therapists who specialize and are certified in it. And most of those therapists are women. 

Nassar groomed his victims as well as the parents. You want the best medical care for a gymnast? You want to stay on the team? Do as we say. That he was “nicer” than the coaches in this cruel sport only worked to his advantage. Nassar would position his body between the parent and the patient. He was practiced and efficient. We are taught early and often to respect and defer to people like doctors and police officers. Deference that can be dangerous and respect that is unearned. This POS had his clients take off their underwear and wear a gown. That you or I would not expect a doctor or physical therapist to have us strip down and stick their fingers inside our bodies for a shoulder or heel injury is beside the point. The team doctor knows all, right? He’s the expert. You and I aren’t going to lose a scholarship or a place in the team line up if we ask questions about procedures. We don’t have someone like John Geddert or Bo Schembechler telling us or our parents to get in line and shut the hell up about pulling down our pants and just get back to practice.

Nassar escalated his sexual abuse well beyond unnecessary pelvic floor manipulation. Full on rape in some cases, including at his “home office.” A male victim came forward as well. And of course Nassar was found to have massive amounts of child pornography on his computer. This goes well beyond some legitimate osteopathic/physical therapy use of pelvic floor massage. Nice try.

If you are one of those “minimizers” who thinks all this talk of sexual abuse by doctors is overblown and that the FBI shouldn’t have even had to bother with this “bullshit,” take a listen to this episode of Real Crime Profile (The FBI’s Handling of the Larry Nassar Case): One of the podcast hosts, Jim Clemente, is a former FBI profiler. I think you will find his observations and commentary enlightening.

Yesterday, Senator Chuck Grassley (Iowa) called for a federal prosecutor or special counsel to further investigate the decision by the Department of Justice not to bring any prosecutions related to the FBI’s mishandling of the Larry Nassar investigation. How I wish L. Brooks Patterson were still alive to consider the following testimony:

A message needs to be sent: If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough.

Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles

They allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year and this inaction directly allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue.

Olympic Gymnast McKayla Maroney

Wait, I take that back. Of course the man would not have given a second thought to any of this or correlate it to what he pulled in the OCCK case. I wonder if any of his still-living enablers ever do, beyond thinking “thank god this #metoo shit wasn’t around back in the day!” Pour yourself another drink and forget about it. Fuck it, you can’t bring back the dead, right? All you can do is make sure no one can sue over it and keep telling anyone who asks that “the case is unsolveable.” So sad.

The Senate hearing also prompted this reflection about the importance of local journalism: Investigative journalists at the Indianapolis Star newspaper exposed Nassar and sexual abuse in the sport of gymnastics. As Jim Clemente observed in the RCP podcast, it was not until the Star began publishing stories on these crimes that the FBI SA in Charge got off his ass and filed a CYA report in the Nassar case. A report constructed 17 months after the fact, without the benefit of an FBI investigator working the file, and which contained statements a victim denied having made in a poorly conducted interview. A report authored by a man allowed by the FBI to retire after not only failing to file a timely report, but who was trying to finagle a job with USA Gymnastics in the interim. Nothing like a second career after getting that FBI pension.

It was the brave journalism of Marney Keenan (“Finding Timmy’s Killer,” The Detroit News, October 26, 2009) and David Ashenfelter (“Decades of Despair” and “Did Top Suspects Get Away With It?,” Detroit Free Press, June 17 and 18, 2012) that got the story out about failures in the OCCK case that became clear after the names Christopher Brian Busch and Gregory Woodard Greene came to light. Names that rose to the dirty surface despite the best efforts of the Oakland County Prosecutor’s office and the Michigan State Police to lock that info down for all time. I’ve told you before that after Marney’s article was published, someone from the MSP called the News and asked why their old friend and crime beat reporter, Mike Martindale, wasn’t given the assignment. Because we knew he would fuck us, that’s why. You wanted us to explain what happened in 2006 and beyond to your whitewashing drinking buddy, the man who gave a people like Garry Gray and Brooks Patterson the benefit of the doubt? I don’t think so.

David Ashenfelter’s two-part series made trouble for him and the Free Press, too. Investigative journalists ask the hard questions and know that some digging has to happen beyond what these agencies deign to release in FOIA responses. If an agency has the taint of corruption, why would anyone expect a legal, honest FOIA response/production? But raising the hard questions in this dirty investigation results in punishment, not answers.

I get it, it’s a fine line for most reporters because they can’t afford to piss off the Jessica Cooper and Paul Waltons of the world. They need those on air comments for all kinds of cases and manipulative and petty people in power tend to have long memories and are better at holding grudges than filing charges. But how about this–just say the prosecutor’s office was asked to comment and did not respond, and when election time rolls around don’t cover the manufactured horse shit they toss to help them get out the vote. It is a two-way street.

Two major investigative journalism works, books, podcasts, an internationally-aired documentary and blogs, all covering the OCCK case and investigation, including issues and names well beyond Busch and Greene. Yet no traction. And no help from the Oakland County prosector or the Michigan AG. Let dead kids lie.

Secrecy makes us more ignorant and the truth matters. “The case is unsolvable.” Right. And a dentist should use pelvic floor manipulation to cure a toothache.

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