By Jennifer Roback
On Wednesday, September 15, 2021, some of USA's more decorated gymnast's took the stand to testify at the Senate Hearing regarding the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar investigation.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is currently conducting an investigation into the FBI's handling of the Nassar case after the Justice Department's inspector general released a shocking report back in July of 2021 that stated that allegations against Nassar first happened in July of 2015, over a year before the agency started their initial investigation.
The report stated that Nassar -- who was convicted back in 2018 and is currently serving out his sentence of 40 to 174 years at a federal prison near Orlando, Florida -- was able to molest more than 70 girls and women under his guidance while the FBI failed to act.
Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, all took the stand on Wednesday to give their testimony.
Four-time Olympic Gold medalist Biles was the first to testify and delivered a powerful message in hopes that no more young women will have to experience what her and her teammates have.
“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, but I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Biles said during her statement.
"I am also a survivor of sexual abuse. And I believe without a doubt that the circumstances that led to my abuse and allowed it to continue, are directly the result of the fact that the organizations created by Congress to oversee and protect me as an athlete – USA Gymnastics (USAG) and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) – failed to do their jobs," she added.
“We suffered and continue to suffer because no one at FBI, USAG or the USOPC did what was necessary to protect us,” she continued. “We have been failed, and we deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports.”
Nichols, 24, added that while she was one of the first to report the sexual abuse, the FBI failed to react.
“In sacrificing my childhood for the chance to compete for the United States, I am haunted by the fact that even after I reported my abuse, so many women and girls had to needlessly suffer at the hands of Larry Nassar,” Nichols said during her testimony. “USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the FBI have all betrayed me.”
Maroney, 25, later repeated, in detail, what she had previously told the FBI in a three-hour phone call on her bedroom floor back in the summer of 2015, before she had even told her own mother about the abuse.
“The first thing Larry Nasser ever said to me was to change into shorts with no underwear because that would make it easier for him to work on me, and within minutes, he had his fingers in my vagina,” Maroney testified. “The FBI then immediately asked, ‘Did he insert his fingers into your rectum?’ I said, ‘No, he never did.’ They asked if he used gloves. I said, ‘No, he never did.’ They asked if this treatment ever helped me. I said, ‘No, it never did.’ This treatment was 100 percent abuse and never gave me any relief.”
She later went on to recall a night in Tokyo where she thought she might die from the abuse Nassar was putting her through.
“That evening, I was naked, completely alone, with him on top of me, molesting me for hours. I told [the FBI] I thought I was going to die that night because there was no way that he would let me go. But he did,” Maroney continued.
“Not only did the F.B.I. not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said. They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others.”
Following Maroney's testimony, Raisman, 27, added in that it took the FBI 14 months to interview her about allegations, despite prior requests, claiming the FBI, USAG and USOPC “quietly allowed Nassar to slip out the side door” and continue molesting children.
“It was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter,” Raisman said during her testimony. “Nobody should be off limits. Nothing should be off limits" adding, "I personally would like to see all three organizations completely investigated."
FBI Director Christopher Wray also testified on Wednesday and said he was "deeply and profoundly sorry" to the victims, later telling the committee, "I don't have a good explanation" for what went wrong in the case.
Wray did not become the FBI director until 2017, but said that he was “heartsick and furious” to learn about the multiple errors made in the case before taking charge.
“I’m sorry that so many people let you down again and again,” Wray said to the victims. “I am especially sorry that there were people at the F.B.I. who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed, and that is inexcusable. It never should have happened, and we are doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.”
Wray testified that two FBI agents who took the initial abuse reports are no longer at the agency, but the Justice Department has since declined to prosecute either of the former agents.
John Manly, a lawyer who represents many of Nassar’s alleged victims, said via the Washington Post that the agent’s firing was “long overdue,” but added, “I can’t help but wonder if this is because of the Senate hearing, and the timing seems cynical.”
Manly has argued that those who participated “in what we believe is a conspiracy by the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and the Olympic committee to suppress the Nassar investigation should be criminally charged. The fact that [the agent] perjured himself and lied to investigators, both of which are crimes, sends a message to others at the FBI that you can get away with it.”
Following the testimony's, the US senators on the committee called for prosecution of the FBI agents who botched the investigation.
"I understand it's a long-standing department policy not to comment on decisions, not to prosecute, but robust oversight of the Department of Justice is a core responsibility of this committee,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin said during his opening remarks. “The FBI is handling of a Nassar's case is a stain on the bureau.”
"It's not only that the FBI failed to do its job, systematically, and repeatedly, it is also the cover of the cover up that occurred afterward,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal added.
“When FBI agents made material, false statements and deceptive omissions referred by the Inspector General for criminal prosecution, those referrals were declined, without explanation, without any public explanation at all. My hope is that the Department of Justice, which was invited today and has declined to appear, will explain why those lies by FBI agents did not lead to criminal prosecution, and accountability and even days before this hearing."
At this time, it is still unknown what might happen to the agents that were named in the report.