The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) made news on Tuesday, April 17, when Olympic Gold Medalist McKayla Maroney spoke publicly for the first time since revealing former U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar abused her. She spoke at length with NYSPCC Executive Director, at The NYSPCC’s annual Spring Luncheon at The Pierre Hotel.
“Many people looked away,” Maroney told the room. “We know that Larry was a monster. All they [USA Gymnastics, MSU, and the USOC] cared about was money and medals and little else. They demanded excellence from me but they couldn’t give it to us.”
She spoke up, caught in the wave of women protesting abusive behavior. “This year has been so huge, with everyone speaking their truth with the Me Too movement,” she told the room. “I’m so proud and inspired by all the women who testified. They truly led. With everything that I went through, it was almost hard to believe what happened to me. I almost have to hear it over and over and over again to start to accept it. And they definitely helped me with that.”
After so many years of stain to its reputation, Maroney said, “Within the gymnastic world there’s no question that we have to rebuild from the ground up so this never happens again. I definitely see a future where athletes are safe and succeeding. My team won gold medals in spite of USA Gymnastics, MSU, and the USOC. They don’t build champions, they break them. But we’re changing that.”
The institutions had turned a blind eye to the abuse. Her parents were blindsided.
“I trusted Larry as a world renowned doctor,” Maroney continued. “People I looked up to got worked on by him – I was just a kid fulfilling a dream and my mom was supporting, my dad was and my family was. There was no way they could have known. I know it’s very hard for them and we have to let that go. We can’t have blind faith in these institutions anymore.”
The NYSPCC Safe Touches and other prevention and recovery initiatives have made it the go-to authority for high profile incidents and a model for others all over the world. At the luncheon, they targeted a New York State loophole. A murmur of shock reverberated through the room of 250 to learn from Dr. Pulido, “Under NY State Law as it is written today, if a child is sexually abused in a private school in New York State, the administrators do not have to report it to the authorities.” All were urged to contact their local representatives to push for legislation that will close that loophole.
“We are so grateful that McKayla chose to share her story with The NYSPCC,” said Dr. Pulido, “When you hear about a horrific story in the media like the indescribable abuse from Larry Nassar, it’s easy to become discouraged and lose hope. It’s The NYSPCC’s mission to help children who have endured abuse like McKayla’s with our trauma recovery program. We hope that her remarkable bravery both in her sport and in her personal life inspires others to join the fight to end child abuse.”
McKayla said she chose the luncheon because “I did want this to be my first experience speaking out about something so powerful like this. I signed up knowing it would be hard and it was: answering these questions when I really hadn’t wanted to.”
But speaking her truth is part of the recovery. “She is telling her story,” said Dr. Pulilo, “to support other survivors and prevent future abuse.”
Maarit Glocer, Valesca Guerrand-Hermes and Elizabeth Mayhew were luncheon Co-Chairs; Deborah Norville and Karl Wellner, Vicky Cornell and Tania Higgins, Vice-Chairs. Dr. Penny Grant, Diandra de Morrell Douglas, Kathe B. Dyson, Vicki Foley and Cathy and Mark Weiss served as Leadership Committee. Holly Kelly, Jean Shafiroff, Dori Cooperman, Regina Caicaterra, Jake Montagnino, Susanne Schalin, Boo Grace, Randi Schatz, Kathleen Giordano, Mary Alice Sherrill, Tina Louise, Stephen Forrester, Flo Anthony and Wendy Neuss were among the supporters.
For more information about The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, visit www.nyspcc.org.