Doctor Is Accused of Sexually Abusing Gymnast in Front of Her Mother & It's Every Parent's Nightmare

mckayla maroney
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We teach our children to think of their doctor as a person they can trust with their body, someone whom they can confide in and feel safe with. While most doctors swear by the oath "Do no harm," several Olympic gymnasts have come forward with allegations that their team doctor sexually assaulted them for years -- and in at least one case, it happened right in front of her mother, without anyone knowing about it.

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Joining the viral social media campaign #metoo, former Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney took to her Twitter account this week to make the allegation that USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar molested her for years, starting when she was only 13.

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"It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was 'treated.' It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and it happened before I won my silver," she wrote.

Maroney recalled a particularly scary incident of abuse that happened while the team was traveling overseas. "For me, the scariest night of my life happened when I was 15 years old. I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo. 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." She claims the abuse continued until she left the sport in 2016.

She's not the only gymnast who's come forward to accuse Dr. Nassar of truly heinous acts. Rachael Denhollander claims Nassar digitally penetrated her while her own mother was in the room. A young girl at the time, she thought because her mom was there and talking to the doctor while it was happening that it must have been a valid medical treatment. "He would position himself in between my mom and I, so I could not see where his hands were," Denhollander told People. "That was the dynamic that kept me quiet because I didn't realize she couldn't see [either]. The idea that someone could be sexually assaulting me for 30 minutes at a time while holding a conversation with my mother, nobody thinks that's what assault looks like." 

Denhollander, as well as another gymnast known only as Jane Doe, have sued both Nassar and the USA Gymnastics organization. Nassar pled guilty to three counts of possession of child pornography this past July and is awaiting sentencing. As part of his plea deal, federal prosecutors agreed not to pursue charges for any of the over 100 alleged incidents of sexual assault on minors during his years of practice.  

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Any parent whose child gets seriously involved in sports knows that coaches, sports therapists, and doctors become like extended members of the family. Our kids spend hours each week with these adults, and our instinct is to trust them as experts in their field. Sadly, that's not always the case.

Nothing can change what these girls, now young women, have been through. But as parents, we can make sure their bravery in coming forward isn't in vain. We need to take their allegations, and other accusations like them, seriously. And we need to teach our kids that doctor or not, it's never okay for someone to touch them inappropriately.

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