I would like to propose a new national anthem: Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us.”
As a former director of music licensing who oversaw song placements in TV and film, I feel it is a much more fitting selection for the current scene playing out in our country. Votes can be cast in the comments.
While I would argue that the government does not care about any of us, I believe that to be especially and visibly true for women in the US. This fact was brought into the spotlight, yet again, this week—this time by the female victims in the US gymnastics abuse case.
A quick recap. Larry Nassar was the team doctor for the US women’s national gymnastics team for 18 years. During his time in power, he sexually assaulted hundreds of young girls (children) and women. Under the guise of medical treatment and sometimes with their parents in the room, Nassar inserted his fingers into the vaginas and anuses of his victims. I am intentionally graphic here because I think our culture is quick to disregard the term “sexual assault.”
That wasn’t all. Investigators also said they found at least 37,000 videos and images of child porn in his possession, including prepubescent children engaged in sexual acts.
Nassar was eventually charged, convicted, and sentenced at both the state and federal levels in 2017 and 2018.
But several of his victims were back in the news this week as a new report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found that the FBI’s investigation into Nassar included “major missteps.”
The report also said that the FBI did not treat the case with the “utmost seriousness,” and the agency acknowledged conduct that was “inexcusable and a discredit” to the institution.
The gist of the problem comes down to this. The FBI first received allegations against Nassar in 2015—that it then waited months to open an investigation into. According to the Associated Press, “At least 40 girls and women said they were molested over a 14-month period while the FBI was aware of other sexual abuse allegations involving Nassar. Officials at USA Gymnastics also contacted FBI officials in Los Angeles in May 2016 after eight months of inactivity from agents in Indianapolis.”
Additionally, the report found that even after the FBI responded to the claims, it continued to make “numerous and fundamental errors” and violated its own policies. On top of all of that, once internal FBI investigations began, officials gave inaccurate information to make it look like they’d been diligent in their duties.
Even more damning, the report found that during the time period of the initial investigation, the head of the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis, W. Jay Abbott, was discussing a job with the Olympic Committee with then USA Gymnastics president, Stephen Penny. Oof.
Iconic athletes like Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney—who have all identified themselves as some of Nassar’s many victims—gave impassioned testimony before Congress in response to the report.
In her remarks, Maroney stated, “After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said.”
“I then told the FBI about Tokyo, the day he gave me a sleeping pill for the plane ride to then work on me later that night. That evening, I was naked, completely alone, with him on top of me molesting me for hours. I told them I thought I was going to die that night because there was no way that he would let me go. But he did. I told them I walked the halls of Tokyo hotel at 2 a.m., at only 15 years old. I began crying at the memory over the phone, and there was just dead silence. I was so shocked at the agent’s silence and disregard for my trauma. After that minute of silence, he asked, ‘Is that all?’”
Finally, she said:
“Let’s be honest: by not taking immediate action from my report, they allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year, and this inaction directly allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue. What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?”
According to NPR, Biles gave a similar report recalling “sitting on her bedroom floor in 2015 telling the FBI on the phone ‘all of my molestations in extreme detail.’ She said that after describing instances of abuse by Nassar, including before she won the team gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012, ‘I cried, and there was just silence’ on the part of the FBI agent.”
I could continue, but readers surely get the point by now. Even gold medalists, our pride and joy, even these icons in US pop culture were not worth law enforcement’s attention until the story began to break in the media.
And in truth, this story is not an outlier in our system, but rather a roadmap for how to get your case solved. Be young, beautiful or talented, wealthy, and get the media involved…and maybe, just maybe, they’ll test your freaking rape kit and clear your case. Otherwise, sweetie, forget about it.
While it may seem women have made advances on this front in recent years, especially given the prominence of the #MeToo movement, other reports don’t paint to pretty of a picture.
Following the activism and advocacy of the #MeToo movement, rape kits hit their lowest clearance rate since the 1960s. USA Today says that this data “may be driven…by a greater willingness by police to correctly classify rape cases and leave them open even when there is little hope of solving them.”
Despite advances in DNA evidence (which are a tool, not foolproof), police successfully closed a mere 32 percent of rape cases in 2017. Researchers estimate only a third of rapes are reported in the first place.
Law enforcement has endless excuses for these disgusting statistics, and most find them arguing for more power and resources. But that’s a flaming pile of horse manure. The US spends $340 per person each year on public policing, for a total of $193 billion in 2017. Police spending accounts for 9.2 percent of all local government spending, and in 2020 the FBI’s budget request was for $9.31 billion. They have plenty of money and never seem to run out of resources for no-knock warrants, gun grabs, or traffic stops where they rob people via civil asset forfeiture.
So the fact that we have thousands of rape kits that sit untested is not a matter of resources but a matter of priorities. And the reality is that our law enforcement agencies do not prioritize preventing or solving violent crimes against women and girls.
With law enforcement agencies like these, who needs enemies?