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Voices of survivors: ‘you will not destroy our light’
  1. Melissa D McCradden1,2,
  2. Michael D Cusimano1,2
  1. 1 Department of Neurosurgery, St. Michael’s Hospital, Injury Prevention Research Office, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Melissa D McCradden, Department of Neurosurgery, St. Michael’s Hospital, Injury Prevention Research Office, Toronto, ON M5B 1W8, Canada; mccraddenm{at}

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The horrors revealed in the Larry Nassar case—the US Olympic Team osteopathic doctor and team physician who sexually abused hundreds of female athletes over decades, are shocking, and it may easily be dismissed as an ‘extreme’ case. Yet it is important to note that certain elements of the Nassar situation shed critical light on the larger problem of how sport abuse can occur. To prevent future abuse, we have a moral obligation to listen to the survivors’ stories who were ignored for so long to understand how we may make sport safe for every athlete. This editorial describes narrative themes1 emerging from 150 victim impact statements heard at Nassar’s sentencing that spoke to elements of sport that facilitated the abuse.

‘Do not question authority’

One of the most powerful norms that silenced these athletes was that in gymnastics they were taught ‘not to question authority’ and to ‘hide emotions, control [their] feelings and keep a level head’. In many sports, there has traditionally been a pervasive notion that obedience leads to success. But why? Despite the advocacy for athlete-centred or humanist coaching methods, …

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  • Contributors MDM reviewed the survivors’ statements and drafted the initial manuscript. MDC assisted in drafting and editing the manuscript. Both authors approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors are supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Strategic Team Grant in Applied Injury Research # TIR-103946 and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it published Online First. The first sentence has been corrected.