The story of Dr. Larry Nasser’s abuse of the Olympic gymnasts tore at our country’s heart. Here are some thoughts I have about this, from the standpoint of both Communicating with Compassion and also of spiritual values.
Larry Nassar is clearly a sick man who was dealing with terrible compulsions. His crime is not that he was ill. Rather, as the amazing Judge Aquilina said in sentencing him, his crime is not seeking help and instead continuing to abuse.
There are other parties to this, and those are all the adults who ignored the reports of women, or shamed them into silence, or bought their silence. In a way this is an even greater crime, because unlike Nasser those adults were not sick. And yet they looked away while so many women were sexually abused and traumatized.
I hope that what happened recently in court, the heart wrenching testimony of these brave 156 women confronting Nasser and sharing their agony, is indeed a turning point in our culture. The resignations have begun at USA Gymnastics and at Michigan State University, and investigations are ongoing, so the story is not over by any means.
I hope that the result of all this is that when the next person reports sexual abuse, that everybody, everybody (!) takes this with the seriousness that it requires. This doesn’t mean to believe the accusation without investigating. That too would be immoral. Our spiritual tradition, as well as American law, teaches us that we must listen to both sides of a story before arriving at a conclusion.
But certainly, a complaint of sexual abuse cannot be ignored or brushed aside. It must be investigated.
‘Do not stand idly by your brother’s blood’, the Bible teaches us (Lev. 19:16). In the Jewish tradition this applies not only to a person in danger of being killed (‘your brother’s blood’) but also to a person in danger of being sexually assaulted.
As so many of Nasser’s victims said, if even one adult had taken action the abuse would have ended long ago.
‘Do not stand idly by your brother’s blood’ means that, in God’s eyes, when it comes to sexual abuse every one of us is a mandated reporter. Let us commit to never stand by idly.
About The Author
Rabbi Bernard Uzi Weingarten teaches the two subjects he loves: Communicating With Compassion and Jewish Spirituality. He holds a Master’s degree in the field of Education, studied spiritual psychology at the University of Santa Monica, and studied communication skills with internationally acclaimed teachers. He has taught both Jewish Spirituality and Communicating with Compassion for academic credit.
He currently makes his home in the Pacific Northwest.
I was attending a class given by Dr. Mary, a naturopathic doctor who attended Communicating with Compassion close to ten years ago. When she saw that I was among the participants, she shared the following with the group: