Statement on Institutional Abuse in Response to Sexual Offenses of Larry Nassar 

September 16, 2021

The failures of both USA Gymnastics and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to appropriately address the sexual offenses of Larry Nassar enabled his crimes.  This is institutional abuse, and it is not a new story.  Organizations routinely side with employees and people in positions of power over the allegations of children, prioritizing their reputation over the safety of the children in their care.

We know sexual abuse occurs in youth-serving organizations, but when we choose to ignore that it’s happening in our community, we enable this abuse to continue.  Organizations that blame individuals as ‘bad apples,’ fail to believe children’s disclosures of abuse, or simply encourage an abuser to retire or “relocate” instead of addressing the issue, are the problem.  As one survivor said, “Do we blame the alligator—or the person who keeps feeding it children?” We believe it is the responsibility of every organization, and every adult, to protect children.

To the survivors: We know institutional harm is a second betrayal.  We see you and we stand with you. We believe you. We don’t want apologies, excuses, or damage control statements; we want action and change. We expect more.  We will do everything in our power to make institutions accountable, adults better prepared, and children safer in all the spaces they occupy.

Our team, our board, our partners, and our supporters are bound by a fierce, unwavering commitment to protect children. Our first and only priority is to make our community safe for all children, and we will not stop working and pushing until we succeed in Northern Virginia. To learn more about our approach to combatting institutional abuse, view our program overview.