tv At This Hour With Kate Bolduan CNN September 15, 2021 8:00am-9:00am PDT
job is to protect getting away with this? this is not justice. enough is enough. today, i ask you all to hear my voice. i ask you, please, do all that is in your power to make sure these individuals are held accountable and responsible for lying about my initial report and covering up for a child molester. in closing, i would like to ex-tress my deep gratitude to the united states senate, a very powerful institution that from the beginning has fought for us rather than against us. thank you, and i welcome any questions. >> thank you ms. maroney. miss nichols. >> chair durbin, ranking member grassley and distinguished members of the judiciary committee, thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. i want to thank you for your commitments to holding those accountable for athlete safety.
i was named as gymnast two in the office of inspector general's report and previously identified as athlete a. by usa gymnastics. i want you to know this didn't happen to gymnast two or agent lee a. it happened to me, maggie nichols. since i was a child i had a dream of competing for my country in the world championships and olympic games. i was an elite level gymnast by the age of 13. by the time i was 14, i made the national team. i traveled internationally for four years attending competitions and in 2015 at the world championships representing our country where i won a gold medal. my olympic dreams ended in the summer of 2015 when my coach and i reported larry nassar' abuse to usag leadership. i went on to compete at the university of oklahoma where i was named first team all american in the all-around in all four events and was an eight-time national champion. i reported my abuse to usa gymnastics over six years ago, and so my family and i received
few answers and have even more questions about how this was allowed to occur and dozens of other little girls and women at michigan state had to be abused after i reported. 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 suffer at the hands of larry nassar. usa gymnastics and the united states olympic and paralympic committee and the fbi have all detrade me and those who were abused by larry nassar after i reported. the coverup of my abuse and the fbi's fail your to interview me for more than a year after my complaint are well documented in the oig report. after i reported my abuse to usa gymnastics, my family and i were told by the former president, steve penny, to keep quiet and not say anything that could hurt the fbi investigation. we now know there was no real fbi investigation occurring. while my complaints with the
fbi, larry nassar continued to abuse women ap girls. during this time the fbiish yupd no search warrants and made no arrest. from the day i reported my molestation by larry nassar, i was treated differently by usag. not only did the fbi fail to conduct a thorough investigation, but they also knew that usag and the usopc created a false narrative where larry nassar was allowed to retire. with his reputation intact and return to michigan state university, thus allowing dozens of little girls to be molested. as the inspector general's report details during this time period, fbi agents did not properly document evidence, failed to report to proper authorities and the special agent in charge was seeking to become the new director of the united states olympic and paralympic committee, a job opportunity raised by steve penny. afterwards, fbi agents in charge of the investigation lied to oig investigators about what had
happened. this conduct by these fbi agents including the special agent in charge, who are held in high regard and expected to protect the public is unacceptable, disgusting and shameful. this committee produced a report in 2019 titled "the courage of survivors: a call to action." it found the us olympic committee and the body failed to adequately respond to credible allegations against nassar. similarly, the oig report found that senior fbi officials lied to the inspector general, engaged in serious conflicts of interest and tried to cover up one of the biggest child sexual abuse scandals in the history of amateur sports. both reports uncovered serious and possible criminal misconduct by those at the highest level of the olympic committee, our sport and the fbi. despite these findings of
serious and criminal misconduct throughout the fbi, no accountable has occurred. an important question remains, perhaps the most important question. why? why would the fbi agents lie to oig investigators? why would the fbi not properly document evidence that was received? why would the fbi agent be interested in the usag presidency? these questions remain unanswered. the survivors of larry nassar have a right to know why their well-being was placed in jeopardy by these individuals who chose not to do their jobs. to date no one from the fbi usopc or usag have faced federal charges other than larry nassar. for many hundreds of survivors of larry nassar, this hearing is one of our last opportunities to get justice. we ask that you do what is in your power to ensure those that engaged in wrongdoing are held accountable under the law. >> thank you, ms. nicholls.
>> ms. reisman. >> i want to begin by thanking the judiciary committee including chairman durbin and ranking member grassley for their commitment to seeking the truth for the hundreds, if not thousands, who were systematically abused by larry nassar and for this committee's diligence to demand accountability regarding federal law enforcement's misconduct. i also want to express my gat tude to the other brave survivors here today, my friends and my teammates, for sharing their stories and continuing to press for justice and reform. over the past few years it has become painfully clear how a sur
voif vor's healing is affected y the handling of their abuse, and it disgusts me that we are still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability over six years later. in 2015 it was known that at least six national team athletes had been abused by nassar. there was even one of the athletes that was abused on film. given our abuser's unfettered access to children, stopping him should have been a priority. instead, the following occurred. the fbi failed to interview pertinent parties in a timely manner. it took over 14 months for the fbi to contact me despite my many requests to be interviewed by them. the records establish that steve penney, fbi agent jay abbott and
their subordinates worked to conceal nassar's crimes. steve penney arranged with the fbi to conduct my interview at the olympic training center where i was under the control and observation of usa gymnastics and the united states olympic and paralympic committee. the day of my interview steve penney flew to the olympic training center and he made sure i was aware he was there. i felt pressured by the fbi to consent to nassar's plea deal. the agent diminished the significance of my abuse and made me feel my criminal case wasn't worth pursuing. special agent in charge of investigating nassar met steve penney for beers to discuss job opportunities in the olympic movement. another fbi agent worked with steve penney to determine jurisdiction without interviews the survivors.
i watched multiple high ranking officials at usag, usopc and fbi resign or retire without explanation of how they may have contributed to the problem, some of whom were publicly thanked for their service and rewarded with severance or bonus money. my reports of abuse were not only buried by usag usopc, but federal law enforcement officer failed to follow their most basic duties. the fbi and others within both usag and usopc knew that nassar molested children and did nothing to restrict his access. steve penney and any usag employee could have walked a few steps to file a report with the indiana child protective services since they shared the same building. instead, they quietly allowed nassar to slip out the side
door, knowingly allowing him to continue his work at msu, sparrow hospital, a usag club and even run for school board. nassar found more than 100 new victims to molest. it was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter. why did none of these organizations warn anyone? usag and usopc have a long history of enabling abuse by turning a blind eye. both organizations knew of nassar's abuse long before it became public, although you wouldn't know that by reading their press releases which would have you and their corporate sponsors believe that athlete safety comes first. we have called for a fully independent, factual investigation for years now because i and these women who
sit before you know firsthand these organizations and their public statements are not to be trusted. they claim they want accountability but then seek to restrict which staff can be interviewed, which documents can be examined and claim attorney-client privilege over and over again. the so-called investigations these organizations orchestrated were not designed to provide the answers we so critically need. why are we left to guess why usag and usopc did not report abuse. was it to protect the values of the sponsorships? the l.a. 28 bid? their own jobs? to avoid criminal liability? perhaps, but why must we speculate when the facts are attainable and the stakes are so
high? why would duly sworn federal law enforcement officers ignore reports abuse of a doctor across state lines and country border? for a future job opportunity? or were there additional incentives and pressures? why must we speculate when the facts are obtainable and the stakes are so high? just as naive it is to assume that the problem only rests with nassar, it's unrealistic to think we can grasp the full extent of culpability without understanding how and why usag and usopc chose to ignore abuse for decades and why the interplay among these three organizations led the fbi to willingly disregard our reports of abuse.
without knowing who knew what when, we cannot identify all enables or determine whether they are still in positions of power. we just can't fix a problem we don't understand, and we can't understand the problem unless and until we have all of the facts. if we don't do all we can to get these facts, the problems we are here to address will persist and we are deluding ourselves if we think other children can be spared the institutionalized tolerance and normalization of abuse that i and so many others had to endure. i thank you for your time, your commitment and your genuine concern for those survivors who relied on the fbi to do the right thing. i welcome any questions and comments and i will answer them to the best of my ability. thank you. >> thank you, ms. raisman. i've been in a lot of committee
hearing. i can't remember compelling testimony like we've heard this morning ever before because you had the courage to come up and tell the world what happened to you. it is heartbreaking to think what you have been through. i thank you for being here. we have a job to do and we know it. it begins with this hearing. the accountability of the fbi and the department of justice and all of law enforcement when it comes to abuse cases such as those that you have endured personally. but there is an historic element here in that your audience includes young people like yourself who are victims and survivors themselves. i have one minute in questions. my questions to the panel and anyone who cares to respond. what would you say to other young athletes who may be suffering in silence or
wrestling with the decision about whether to speak out? ms. raisman? >> the first thing i would want to say to anybody that's watching that's suffering in silence or has been through something really traumatic is that i support them, i believe them and just be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself, know that i'm struggling, too. i'm still navigating how to heal from this. league is a roller coaster. some days i feel better, some days i feel like i'm taking a bunch of steps backwards. that's okay. we're all human, all doing the best that we can. i would encourage whoever is out there that's listening to tell someone whenever they feel comfortable, and it's so important to have a good support system and a community around you. if you're someone out there that doesn't have a good support system, that's okay. sometimes it can take some time to find a good support system. i encourage you to not give up
until you find that support that you deserve. and just remember that i believe you, i support you, you are not alone and i encourage you to ask for help. >> anyone else on the panel? >> yeah. i would just want to say that they need to know their abuse is enough. i think for so long, all of us questioned, that just because someone wasn't fully validating us, that we doubted what happened to us. that's always going to take the healing process take longer. i think the second i gave that to myself is when i really began to heal and began to get my voice back. that took a long time. i think to reach out to other survivors and speak to them and hear their stories is what continues to help me heal. hearing all these girls speak is what continues to make me want to be here today and help others. >> and you are. >> thank you. >> senator grassley.
>> before i ask my first question, in regard to something ms. raisman raised, we haven't forgotten why these people haven't been prosecuted. it want to put in the record a letter i wrote the attorney general on july 16th to ask the justice department to reinvestigate the decision to not investigate the fbi employees who filed you and a lot of other that are not here as well. >> without objection. >> thank you very much. first of all, it's not enough just to commend you for your bravery of speaking out, but by your speaking out, you're helping not only young women, but wherever there might be the abuse that you talk about. it's very difficult, i'm sure, in this public setting for you
to speak to that, and we felt that from you speaking out about it. it's got to be a hard job, but thank you for coming forward. so i'm going to ask questions of any one of you or all of you. you decide how you want to respond. i hope at least one person would speak up. what can you tell congress and the government witnesses testifying here today about the additional steps, if any, that we should take to ensure that we better protect child athletes? we heard from all of you about the agents and the fbi not doing its job or even lying to us. you heard about a bill i am proposing, but beyond those things, do you have anything you would like to add that congress should hear from you to protect child athletes? >> i think it's really important
to look at the connection between the fbi, usa gymnastics and u.s. olympic and paralympic committee. we cannot believe there's a safer future for children unless we fully understand every single thing that happened. usa gymnastics does say they've done investigations, but those were not completely independent, and the scope of the investigation matters. nobody should be off limits. nothing should be off limits. it should go back decades. that has not been done and it's been something that we've been asking for for years and years. so i personally would like to see all three organizations completely investigated and the scope of it matters. until we know all the facts, it's just guesswork. i hope you guys feel the same way as i do, that if we're thinking about children going into gymnastics or sports, i don't want to be guessing that they're going to be okay. i want to know with 100%
certainty that somebody that looked the other way for us isn't still in a position of power. i think the investigation is crucial. until that, i don't have any faith that things will get better in the sport. >> okay. if no one else wants to go beyond that, i'll go to my last que question. i hope this isn't something so sensitive you don't feel you can talk about it, but do you have any thoughts or inputs to share about safe sport, the national non-profit entity that has been tasked by congress with handling allegations from amateur athletes? >> yeah. i personally think safe sport is -- i'm trying to be respectful here. i don't like safe spot. i hear from many survivors that they report their abuse and it's
like playing hot potato where somebody kicks it over to somebody else and they don't hear back for a really long time. i think a really big issue is that safe sport is funded by usa gymnastics or the united states olympic committee. i'm not sure what the correct terminology is. if you're safe sport and you're funded by the organization that you're investigating, they're likely not going to do the right thing. i think it needs to be completely separate. i personally think safe sport needs a lot of work. i know from many survivors -- my mom has personally reported things to safe sport, and we've followed up so many times. they say we can't help you or they either ignore it or pass it on to something else. the person they pass it on to, they kick it back to them. it's a complete mess. the priority doesn't seem to be safety and well-being of athletes. it seems to be protecting usa gymnastics and doing everything to keep the pr good.
>> i agree. nobody really wants to be held accountable, and noesh really knows who to hold accountable. so i think in order to help, there needs to be a specific person who is in charge of protecting these athletes, and it falls on them when they're not. instead of it being passed around and everyone being, oh, we don't know what happened, whose job was that? there needs to be a specific job for that. >> thank you. i now call on senator leahy and remind my colleagues we're trying to make this question period concise. so please do your best. >> i want to thank you all for having the courage to come here to today. i can only imagine how painful it is to relive these experience
s. but i think the resilience, the perseverance you're showing the world today is incredibly admirable, and i hope that young survivors who see this, who feel powerless to tell their stories, will feel, yes, here is an example they should tell it. i think it has to be far more than just telling the stories. obviously, like senator durbin, i've been on this committee for a long time, and i cannot think of anything so moving. we're going to hear senators talk about accountability and justice today. but what does genuine accountability look like to you? when do you feel justice will be done for the injustices you suffered? that really should be the
question we have today. i'd like to hear from all of you on that. when do you feel justice will be done, and what does genuine accountability look like? >> you want to try that one? >> yeah, sure. first going back to -- i probably sound like a broken record, but i'm going to try, hopefully today will be the one that this time i say it it actually happens. for me accountability looks like -- first of all, obviously this never should have happened. one time being abused is too many. one child being abused is too many. i think a complete and full independent investigation of the fbi, usa gymnastics and the united states olympic and paralympic committee. and then from there, then we will know the answers of who should be held accountable. i also think there needs to
be -- when we think about a new usa gymnastics or new united states olympic and paralympic committee, survivors need to be in the room. they need to feel -- we need to feel like we are not adversaries to usa gymnastics, and we need to feel like our voices matter, that they care, that they want to actually be a part of the change that we so desperately want. i'm not trying to speak for them, but i imagine we all feel that it is crazy for me to try to wrap my head around all we're asking for is when a child goes to gymnastics or goes to school or does anything, that they can be spared abuse. the fact that we've been treated like adversaries by so many organizations and our abuse has been diminished, we've been victim-shamed online, we've been gaslit, made to feel we don't matter by these organizations. i never want another child to feel that way ago.
mykayla maroney mentioned this, all victims distrust how they feel. that's something i went through because the fbi made me feel like my abuse didn't account, like it wasn't a big deal. i remember sitting with the fbi agent and him trying to convince me that it wasn't that bad. it's taken me years of therapy to realize that my abuse was bad, that it does matter. i think it's really important to also have education and prevention in the sport as well. i don't see these organizations doing enough to have every single staff member, every single athlete, every single parent, guardian, every person that walks into a gym i believe should be educated to prevent and recognize emotional, physical, sexual, mental abuse everything in between. if we don't have an investigation and we don't have
education and prevention, then this problem and this nightmare is going to keep happening over and over again. >> anybody else care to -- should i assume you all agree with that, right? >> yes. >> so do i. thank you very much. >> thank you senator leahy. senator corbin? >> thank you, senator, i just want to say -- >> sorry. just one more to add, we also want to see them at least be federally prosecuted to the fullest extent because they need to be held accountable. >> thank you. >> as a former prosecutor, i agree with that, thank you. >> senator corbin. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i, too, want to thank these four survivors joining us today. i want to tell you how much i respect and admire your courage
and for sounding an alarm on a system that has abused and neglected you but was supposed to protect you. your stories are difficult for you to tell i know, but it's extraordinarily important for us to hear it, as hard as it is for you and us to hear. i believe that your courage will inspire a generation of women to speak out against those who have abused them. i want you to know, we all want you to know we're very proud of your courage and the example you set for other young women. i sincerely hope your courage in speaking out will be a step toward writing the wrongs that have led to these injustices so we can ensure these mistakes will never, ever be repeated. thank you for shining a light on
this issue and advocating for victims across the country. as you know, you are not alone. because too often those allegations are downplayed, slow-walked or ignored. so now our job is to make sure your sacrifices, your trauma and your nightmare have not been in vain. thank you. >> thank you, senator cornyn. senator feinstein. >> thank you, mr. chairman. for me this was a deja vu. i listened to these young women, i saw their courage, i saw their willingness to step forward. and i'm hopeful that we'll be able to take some action. i would like to present a letter that sent to the united states
commit teep on safe sport, this is on behalf of senator murray and myself. so if i may put that in -- >> without objection. >> -- and i really hope that no one ever goes through the horrors that you have experienced. i hope that when -- and i believe we will take action, that this is enough for you to put this behind you in your life and that you can lead a life that is just as full and happy as is possible and that we do our job and see that we prevent this from ever happening again. so i just want to thank you so much. i've had the occasion to sit down with you, at least two of
you, around my conference table and see the tears. those days are now behind. i'm convinced this senate will act. i thank you so much because you have played a big role, if and when we do, in making it happen. >> than, senator feinstein. senator cruz. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank each of you for being here. being here this morning was not easy. each of you inspire millions across the globe, millions look to your athletic achievements. you've all stood on the biggest stages of the world and done extraordinary things, things that take your breath away, that amaze children and adults, and you were able to do that through tens of thousands of hours of
incredible hard work, and yet that work pales compared to the courage it took to come here today and to tell your story publicly. you could have stayed silent. you could have avoided the scrutiny, the pain -- and i will say watching you testify this morning you could see the pain in each of you sharing that story. but that courage that you've demonstrated by going public, by reporting this abuse, by shining a light, that courage matters, and it's making a difference in the lives of others. the system failed you. what happened to you was grotesque. it was criminal, it was abusive, it was evil. i'm the father of two little girls who are both athletes, not at the level of each of you but what you experienced is every parent's nightmare, that when
you entrust your child to coaches or doctors or trainers, you're trusting that your child will be taken care of, not abused and targeted. i want to thank you. i want to thank you for calling out the abuse, calling out the system that failed you, and that system needs to change. that system needs to be held accountable so that this doesn't happen again. i want to thank you for the kids that won't face abuse because of your courage, each of you, aly, mykayla, simone, you're a texan, the entire state of texas is proud of you, and proud of all of you. right now at home there's a little girl or little boy who is watching this, who may be facing their own personal hell, may be
facing abuse, whether in sports or some other context, a monster who is doing unspeakable things to him. that little girl, that little boy i hope sees your courage and realizes that she can come forward and say something, too, that he can call out the person who is hurting him. so thank you for your courage. it makes an enormous difference. >> thanks, senator cruz. senator whitehouse. >> senator durbin, i want to first thank our colleague senator blumenthal who has been so persistent in this for so long. thank you and ranking member senator grassley for holding this hearing. i want to compliment all of our witnesses for the stunning clarity and grace of your testimony here. your quest for accountability is
100% justified, and thank you for pursuing it. we will endeavor to help you in that pursuit. it is astonishing and disturb ing how many adults let you down and failed at one of the most basic responsibilities of adulthood, which so to look out for children, take care of them, behave properly and trust them. i guess on behalf of adults everywhere, we owe you an apology. what you've done today is impressive and it will make a difference and i'm grateful to you for stepping up the way you have. >> thanks, senator whitehouse. senator hawley is on via webex.
you w'll see him on the screen momentarily. senator hawley? well, perhaps senator cotton is on virtually? we're going to search the ether. senator cotton? well, in their absence, senator klobuchar. >> excellent. thank you very much, all of you. like my colleagues, i want to express my gat tude to you. as a fellow minnesotan, i'm particularly grateful to you, maggie, for sharing your story with the committee today. all of you, and the other women and girls who make up the gymnastics community continue to inspire us. i was one of the geeks that was up at about 4:00 a.m. watching
this live, watching the olympics live this time. to think when you fall off the balance beams and you get back on or you grab those bars when you still have an injury or you perform floor exercise that no one knows was possible, to all of us that are watching, to us that is the courage, something we could never imagine doing. but the real courage is what you're doing today. your bravery is on full display. as a former prosecutor, like some of my colleagues, i know firsthand, i've seen it, how hard it is to testify before a room of strangers. this time you're doing it in front of the u. senate. what you're doing is, of course, part of your own healing, but it was also part of healing for kids you're never going to meet, little girls and boys, that maybe are aware of your fame and what you've done, but may not ever be aware of what you are
doing today. i think you have heard it from so many of my colleagues that have been leading on these bills, and i've been proud to co-sponsor them, but more must be done, more oversight, more accountability. by coming forward today, you are going to make that difference. so we can make sure on your behalf that this never happens again. thank you, simone, mykayla, maggie and aly, for representing the women an girls of usa gymnastics so well on the world stage, but most importantly, so well today. thank you. >> thanks, senator klobuchar. we're going to try one more time with senator cotton. are you with us? >> yes, i'm here, mr. chairman. >> please proceed. >> thank you. i want to also take a moment to thank each of the witnesses appearing this morning. the four of you have done remarkable things in your lives,
patriotic competitors, dedicated athletes, good role models, and you've represented the united states of america expertly on the global stage. perhaps even more impressive is the courage that each of you has displayed in coming forward about the abuse you faced. in doing so, you weren't just taking on one terrible abuser, but potentially facing down an entire system. this isn't the first time we've had hearings on this issue. in 2017-2018, the senate heard from others who faced similar abuse, including jordan weaver who is now the head cokes of arkansas gymnastics, only whom we're also proud. unfortunately the system failed the very women it was supposed to protect. the report by inspector general horowitz shows the system was enabled. i look forward to hearing about
how that will be remedied. i once again thank each of you for coming before the committee and sharing your stories today. >> thank you, senator cotton. senator coombs. >> thank you for holding this hearing. each of you are adults now oorps. you are grown women. you've demonstrated your strength, your determination, your persistence in testifying here today. but as we all know in terrible detail you were victimized as young girls, and we have failed you. the united states olympic committee, usa gymnastics, those in federal law enforcement who were responsible for taking your horrible testimony and translating it into prompt and decisive action to protect other children and to secure justice for you. thank you for the courage it takes to testify and to insist
on justice. thank you to senator blumenthal and senator moran for your persistent and effective engagement in this. we will next turn to hearing the director of the fbi and the inspector general about what has been found by the inspector general and what action will be taken next. i just want to briefly share with you, one of the most concerning parts of what you shared with us today was about your initial interviews with the fbi, where it was conducted, how it was conducted, that you were left alone as a teenage girl to have an interview by phone with an fbi agent who somehow suggested what you were testifying to wasn't horrific, or tried to persuade you that it wasn't that bad, or under a circumstance made it clear to you that the person responsible for usa gymnastics might be present and might have somehow compromised that interview.
the whole way in which all of your interviews were conducted was just awful. sadly, that's been the experience for millions of victims of child sexual abuse over decades in the united states. and the positive thing i wanted to share with you today is for years now there has been a national network of child advocacy centers. there's one in each county in my state, which brings together-informed child welfare professionals and law enforcement to make sure the victims are only interviewed once, they're interviewed in appropriate settings, that they're interviewed in a way that respects and recognizes the trauma and the abuse they've suffered and that ensures that your horrible experiences in terms of those initial interviews -- and it's been compounded by your having to testify and speak again and again, we are working on that
system. senator blunt and i will soon reintroduce a bill that will reauthorize this and double the funding for it. there's a national network of 880 of these child advocacy centers all over the country. i just wanted to share with you and with any victim of abuse or the families who know about their child's abuse who might be watching, that what happened to you should not and need not happen again. there was professional trauma-informed child welfare centered opportunities around the country to seek justice. ms. maroney, i can see what i've just said has particularly impacted you. thank you all four of you for your courage, your persistence and your demands for justice. thank you. >> thank you, senator coons. i believe senator blumenthal will be next. >> thanks, mr. chairman. my thanks again. you are really heroes and stars
and role models for many young men and women around the co country. your courage obviously is impressive to all of us. so is your great and daring, your athleticism, your grace and daring as people and your determination not to be defined with the abuse you suffered and to seek help which should be also a model to others. a number of you have made reference to the therapy that you have sought which also takes courage. you have been involved in a sport that often involves injuries, that often involves physical injuries, and the abuse you suffered involves emotional injuries that you are seeking to
treat, as you would any physical injury. at least one of the athletes was abused after july of 2016. let me ask you if you know of athletes abused by larry nassar after july of 2015, during the 18-month period when the fbi did nothing. you can just say yes, you do. if you want to tell me how many, if you know. if not, just yes or no. ms. biles? >> yes. >> yeah, kaley lorenz is here today, and she was abused after i spoke out. >> yes.
>> yes. i've met many of them and i also just want to be clear that in the time that i had reported my abuse to usa gymnastics, i followed up many, many times. my mom would follow up for me a lot of the time because i'm sure, as you can imagine, it was so hard for me, but also i was so scared because of the positions of power. we followed up so many times and we were constantly told that they were working on it. the most important thing was to keep it confidential, not to tell anyone. they even told me not to talk about it with michaela maroney and give her breathing room. i thought it was being handled. so i can't express to you, when you're told by the president of usa gymnastics at the time, steve penney, that they're
handling it, they got it. i didn't know they were going to mishandle it and cover it up like they have. when they tell me they're talking to the fbi and they should be reaching out soon, i, unfortunately, believed them. it can't tell you how horrifying it is to meet young girls who look up to me, who watched me compete in the olympics and tell me that they went to see nassar because of me and my teammates, because they wanted to see the olympic doctor. i guess in his office, nassar's office, he had photos of us. they went to see him because they thought it was so cool to have the same doctor as us. that's been one of the hardest and most devastating parts for me, so many survivors suffer with guilt and shame. it takes everything i have to work on not taking the blame for that, because it is -- it's
horrific. it's horrible to meet them and to know that over 100 victims could have been spared the abuse, if all we needed was one add doubt to do the right thing. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator blumenthal. senator hirono. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i join all of my colleagues in thanking each of you for coming forward. we know there are young kids who look up to you as the fantastic agent leases and gymnasts that you are. but as they get older, i hope they realize the courage that so many of us -- i use that word, courage, of you coming forward to tell us your stories and the experiences of horrific abuse that you suffered. i think all people who have suffered abuse, it is really hard for them to talk to anybody, to talk to anybody about it. it was hard enough for you to report your abuse, for you to be
very specific about what happened to you, but then to be shunted aside, to get the feeling that the people you relied on to do their jobs, that they thought it was not a big deal, i think that compounds the horrific abuse that you experienced. so you're right to demand better from the fbi, the usa gymnastics, and others including us in this hearing today, and to show people that reports of abuse should be taken period. so your courage and shining a light on a culture of complicity, exploitation and abuse of power inspires others to come forward. so i acknowledge how much courage it took for you to report in the first place, to
have to undergo that horrifying experiences, once again, to tell perfect strangers what happened to you and to not be taken seriously. that is what we need to change. you have to undergo therapy. the main thing is we should prevent these kinds of abuses from happening in the first place and of course if it happens, we need to hold people who will abuse accountable. thank you so much for coming forward. >> thanks. we probably have another 10 or 15 minutes. i don't know if we need a break now or want to go straight through to the end. anybody looking for a break? >> we're good. >> you're good? >> mm-hm. >> great. senator booker. >> thank you mr. chairman. i want to thank you as well for being here today. it took tremendous courage. i'm not sure how many people
fully realize the burden on survivors in america to come forward and recall what happened to them. it is in a sense not just recalling the trauma and the violence and the pain, but it is, as you well know, being forced to relive it. for that, i'm deeply grateful, that you would sit here in a room of strangers in front of powerful people and, again, relive that trauma. i also know you didn't come here for our kind words or our proudness or our empathy. you came here for justice. you came here for action. you've heard words literally for years. >> yeah. >> and you're still fighting. you're fighting against a systemic problem in our country that isn't just in sports. we've seen it from church institutions to the boy scouts.
you talk about pedophilia all the way to sexual assault. we see it in diners, workplaces, factory floors. you all as athletes are doing something in a tradition that is, to me, what has helped to call the conscience of our country forward and expand our imagination to stop injustices of other sorts from people who endured outrageous realities like billie jean king who used platforms not to get attention but to try to change this nation and make it more just. i'm grateful we're at a point where we have such bipartisan determination in this town -- it's not often enough, but here we have bipartisan determination of some of my most respected
colleagues to deliver what you really came for, which is action. i say that to tell you also that we all know that the road to change, real change, systemic change, not just in sport but in our culture that seems to tolerate such a high level of this sort of violence. that is going to take time. there's one saying that always rings in my head, that the only thing necessary for injustice to continue is for good people to do nothing. and you all have seen that firsthand. so i've heard you before be asked the question by media to even in this institution today, do you have any words for other survivors. i would like to simply ask the question of you to answer to put the point and the light where it belongs. it shouldn't take something directly happening to us to
trigger our empathy and our action. i would like to know if you have any words for americans, who amidst a country where this violence happens every single day, is there something you'd like to say to us, who all have to understand that we are playing a part in a culture that allows this to happen? >> i would like to say that i personally don't think that people realize how much experiencing this type of abuse is not something one just suffers in the moment. it carries on with them sometimes for the rest of their lives. for example, being here today is
taking everything i have. my main concern is i hope i have the energy eaven to just walk ot of here. i don't think you realize how much it affects us, how much the ptsd, how much the trauma impacts us. for every survivor it's different. healing looks different for every survivor. the aftermath looks very different. for me, just to paint a picture, i used to train some days seven hours a day when i was training for the olympics. processing my abuse affected me so much. it is something i struggle with. i can remember when i first shared my story publicly for a very long time i didn't even have the energy to stand up in the shower. i would have to sit on the floor and wash my hair because standing up was too exhausting for me. i couldn't even go for a ten-minute walk outside. this is someone i've competed in
two olympic games. there are times where i feel like i forget what i'm saying. i feel like my mind isn't working. i feel like i have no energy at all. i'm 27 years old. my 80-year-old grandfather has more energy than i do. i've often wondered am i ever going to feel better? it has affected my health. in the last couple of years, i've had to be taken in an ambulance because i passed out. i'm so sick from just the trauma. it might not even be after a hearing like this. it just hits me out of the blue. so i think it's important for people to understand how much, you know, even if we're not crying, how much we are all struggling and how much survivors are suffering, because people often say, well, why did you just come forward now? because it's terrifying to come forward, the fear of not being believed, but also because it affects us so much.
sometimes it's impossible just to say the words out loud. so i just want people to know. i'm sure for a lot of us, especially myself, this might take me months to recover. so i just wanted to make that clear, because i think it's important for people to start recognizing you may never know what someone else is going through. but for people who have been through trauma, it's really hard. and if someone's watching this that is feeling really tired and is a survivor and doesn't know why they're having certain issues, just know that you're not alone and i experience the same thing. and hopefully in time we can feel better. >> thank you, senator booker. i believe senator blackburn is available by webx. >> thank you, mr. chairman. because of limited bandwidth, i will just do this by voice.
but i want to say a thank you to each of the women for being there today and the power of their stories and their words. three quick questions. >> senator blackburn, can you hear us? >> yes, i can hear you. >> we missed your three questions. >> yes. three questions. number one, what are the reforms that you would like to see take place? number two, if you do not trust safe sport, then what we would like to know is, who is a trustworthy or is there an organization or an individual that has your trust to be the go-to? and the third thing, did the fbi ever offer you a female agent
who could walk with you through this process? >> thank you, senator blackburn. i'm going to let the panel respond to you. we have two more members after you. thank you. >> i never had a female agent alongside me. i'm sorry that i'm not answering more questions. after telling that story, i just -- i'm exhausted. >> understood. >> anyone else want to respond? >> there was a female agent in the room with me at the otc in 2016, but most of it was fuelled by men just asking questions. but i honestly didn't know what i was walking into. they just told me i had a meeting with the fbi, didn't tell me what it was about. i was just pulled in a random kind of like a hotel room and they just started asking questions. i was never prompted.
>> senator padilla. >> i think i had a female agent in the room at the olympic training center as well, but i'm not entirely sure. >> i feel like we all had the same people. >> if i recall, my direct communication was with a male fbi agent. >> right, in the room. >> okay. senator padilla? >> i want to start by thanking chairman durbin and all those who have made this hearing possible. to the panelists, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. i admire and respect each one of you for choosing to participate today, for sharing you
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