Nassar case hits home with Wieber
By Ashlee Buhler
At one point in time, Larry Nassar was the most prestigious and beloved doctor in the gymnastics community. Now he will forever be the face of what many people are considering the biggest sex abuse scandal in sports history.
However, for one LCC employee, this is more than just a scandal all over the news.
Rita Wieber, who has been teaching in the Fitness and Wellness Department at LCC for over 15 years, was once close friends with Larry Nassar. Her daughter Jordyn, a world-renowned elite gymnast who won gold at the 2012 London Olympics, began seeing Nassar when she was just 8 years old.
On Jan. 19, Rita Wieber found herself in a place where she probably never imagined she would be. Sitting in a media-filled courtroom in Ingham County, it was the first time her daughter publicly spoke about being a victim of Larry Nassar.
“In some ways it felt surreal looking at Larry and flashing back to all the years that we knew him and trusted him,” Rita said. “In listening to all of the statements, my heart continued to break realizing that he had deeply hurt so many.”
As part of his plea deal, Nassar had to listen to victim impact statements from every woman who wanted to speak. The sentencing, which was originally estimated to take about four days, ended up taking seven, as more and more women found the courage to speak with each passing day.
Rita said she believes the overwhelming amount of support from friends, family and the community made Jordyn’s decision to come forward much easier.
“I think we all saw with the growing number of survivors coming forward that strength comes in numbers,” Rita said. “Judge (Rosemarie) Aquilina deserves so much credit for providing the outlet for these survivors to find their voice.”
Jordyn was one of 156 women who found her voice in the Ingham County courtroom. The DeWitt native fought back tears as she read her statement — detailing how she had been manipulated over the years and her trust betrayed.
“The worst part was that I had no idea he was sexually abusing me for his own benefit,” Jordyn read aloud. “I knew it felt strange, but he was the national team doctor. Who was I to question his treatments or – even more – risk my chance at making the Olympic Team?
“To this day, I still don’t know how he could have been allowed to do this for so long. My teammates and I were subjected to his medical care every single month at the national-team training center in Texas. He was the only male allowed to be present in the athlete dorm rooms to do whatever treatments he wanted.
“He was allowed to treat us in hotel rooms alone without any supervision … Nobody was protecting us from being taken advantage of. Nobody was even concerned whether or not we were being sexually abused. I was not protected, and neither were my teammates.”
Jordyn added that the lack of accountability from USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic Committee and Michigan State University has left her with feelings of disappointment, confusion and shame.
While Rita said she has feelings of pain and guilt as a mother, she knows it pales in comparison to the pain that the many survivors have felt, and will continue to feel, for the years to come.
Nassar will be spending the remainder of his life in prison — which Rita said is well deserved – but the fight for justice doesn’t stop there.
“All of the individuals that enabled him in some way, either by ignoring complaints, not monitoring what he was doing, or hiding what he was doing need to be held accountable,” Wieber said. “Further, I believe there is a culture in some sports, especially gymnastics, of disregarding the behavior of abusive coaches who create fearful environments.
“Ultimately, a climate of fear can cause athletes to suppress or even hide pain, depression, anxiety or, as in this case, questions of inappropriate touching.”