On January 24, Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing more than 150 women and girls.
Nassar served as USA Gymnastics national team osteopathic physician and a faculty member at Michigan State University.
The week leading up to his sentencing, the court judge welcomed statements from the 156 women, who came forward and shared their trauma and stories of abuse at the hands of Nassar.
These victims and their parents were given a platform, by the justice system, by state institutions, by the court to confront their abuser.
At the hearing, a tearful father confronted Nassar in articulate rage:
“Inmate Nassar, that is what your name is. And don’t you forget that. The media outlets that have so intently covered this hearing need to know your name…However in my world and my family’s world that you have so conveniently destroyed, you are a hog.”
Watching these gut-wrenching testimonies of Nassar’s victims, and the parents who stood there confronting their child’s abuser, one couldn’t help but think about Zainab’s father.
Zainab came from Kasur, a city where 200 children had been sexually abused in 2015 alone.
While Nassar’s victims and their parents were given a chance to confront their predator in court, by the judge, in front of major international media outlets, Zainab’s father was asked not to demand anything other than a public execution for the murderer.
A father, whose daughter was raped and murdered just days ago, was not only asked to be careful while choosing his words, but to also “consider the time and place” for what he was about to say.
Furthermore, the Chief Justice of Pakistan then barred Zainab’s parents and lawyers to speak to the media on grounds that the matter is sub judice.
This callous treatment of a family which is still coping with the loss of their little girl is part of a larger issue.
Victims in our society are silenced and forced to live with their trauma for the rest of their lives.
They are discouraged from speaking up and cases are swept under the rug more often than not to protect the family’s “honour”.
The first report of sexual abuse in the Nassar case came out in the early 90’s.
It was swept under the rug and the victims reports were ignored by the powerful institutions and individuals involved.
It took 20 years and 156 victims before Nassar was sentenced for his crimes.
The question that keeps floating around on Pakistani social media is, how many more Zainabs will it take before the abuse stops? Before justice is delivered?
The answer lies in the lessons derived from Larry Nassar’s trial.
The women who came forward with their stories of abuse this week were all encouraged to do so by parents and by the judge in court.
Confronting their abuser gave these victims and their families a chance at closure and to move forward with their lives, instead of living in denial and shame for the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many, many victims in our society.
The Larry Nassar case serves as an example of how patriarchy dominates institutions and perpetuates abuse, of how intimidation tactics and silencing the victims of such horrific crimes can contribute to the abuse of hundreds of others.
Had the first report against Nassar been taken seriously in the early 90s, 155 women could have been prevented from going through similar kind of sexual abuse.
As long as we remain silent about abuse, those in power, individuals and institutions alike, will not stop such acts.
When we encourage our women (and men) to speak up about their trauma, empower them instead of victimizing them, believe their complaints of sexual abuse instead of shaming them when they come forward, we are one step closer to justice.