On Tuesday, sexual abuse victims began giving impact statements in a Michigan court against Larry Nassar, a USA Gymnastics team doctor for about 20 years who is accused of molesting scores of young girls.
Over a period of days, around 100 victims are scheduled to speak about the impact Nassar’s sexual abuse had on them. But there’s one gymnast who has said that USAG attempted to silence her from speaking publicly with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
In December, the lawyer for McKayla Maroney, now 22, alleged that USAG had agreed to pay for her therapy in the past only under the condition that she “keep Larry Nassar’s secret” and “keep USA Gymnastics’ secret,” according to ABC News. If she spoke publicly about Nassar’s abuse, she could sued for more than $100,000. The gymnast received a $1.25 million settlement in agreement for signing the NDA.
On Tuesday, supermodel and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen was quick to defend the Olympic gold medalist, and she made a generous offer:
“The entire principle of this should be fought – an NDA to stay quiet about this serial monster with over 140 accusers,” Teigen tweeted. “I would be absolutely honored to pay this fine for you, McKayla.”
That evening, according to ABC News, Maroney responded to Teigen through a statement issued by her lawyer:
I’m shocked by your generosity, and I just want you to know how much hope your words bring to all of us! I just can’t get over the fact that someone I don’t personally know is sticking up for me, let alone a strong women that I’ve looked up to for years!
Soon after, USAG issued a statement saying that it had not and would not seek retribution from Maroney if the gymnast spoke up about Nassar’s alleged abuse. “This has been her right and USA Gymnastics encourages McKayla and anyone who has been abused to speak out,” USAG said in a statement to USA Today.
Maroney’s lawyer, John Manly, told USA Today on Wednesday that the only reason USAG now claims Maroney could speak out was because the silence she agreed to in her NDA got so much attention. “Let’s be clear. The only reason this statement was issued is because people were outraged at USAG’s behavior toward Ms. Maroney and her family,” Manly said. He continued:
They say McKayla has ‘always had the right to speak.’ Not true. Under the agreements terms she could not speak in court unless subpoenaed. She could not even have her statement read without fear of a lawsuit against her by USAG. A victim impact statement is a voluntary act. It’s not a subpoena.
Maroney’s voice has finally been heard. Earlier today, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis read a victim impact statement from Maroney in the courtroom, addressing it to Nasser. (Maroney, like other survivors of Nassar’s abuse, declined to read her statement in-person.) Through the statement, Maroney requested the judge presiding over Nassar’s case give him the maximum sentence of 120 years in prison.
“Larry Nassar deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison, not only because of what he did to me, my teammates and so many other little girls,” Maroney said in her statement. “He needs to be behind bars so he will never prey upon another child.”
Thank you to Maroney for bravely speaking out through her victim impact statement and to Teigen for amplifying the wrongdoing in this situation to help make it right. It’s incredible how Teigen’s generous offer helped further bring to light an already crucial conversation for society — and how so many other people chimed in and offered to help.
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