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Judge Aquilina is the perfect heroine for this moment in the #MeToo movement

Judge Aquilina is the perfect heroine for this moment in the #MeToo movement
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina looks at Larry Nassar. [Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images]

The sexual molestation case against former Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar came to a dramatic close today when Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced him to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting hundreds of young girls in his care.

The trial itself could be viewed as a microcosm for what’s going on in society. In an extraordinary move, Judge Aquilina opened  the courtroom to any victim of Nassar’s to share their story. What followed was an outpouring of heartbreaking and powerful statements from 156 of his accusers, including some of the most famous names in gymnastics from the 2012 Olympics team.

After allowing each young woman to speak, Judge Aquilina offered words of encouragement. To Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to come forward against Nassar, she said: “You started the tidal wave. You made all of this happen. You made all of these voices matter. Your sister survivors and I thank you. You are the bravest person I have ever had in my courtroom.”

“Leave your pain here,” Judge Aquilina told another young woman, “and go out and do your magnificent things.”

The days of statements were difficult to listen to, just as this is an uncomfortable moment in our national conversation. Nassar submitted a six-page letter to the judge last week, claiming that he was a “good doctor” and the victim of a media frenzy. He claimed that listening to the testimony was too upsetting. Judge Aquilina’s response in throwing out the letter is the perfect summary of her fierce approach to this case.

For the thousands of women who have suffered and stayed silent about the sexual assault and harassment they’ve endured, this trial, and this moment in history, offer some long overdue restitution. And Judge Aquilina’s words are just the rallying cry they need. In her closing statements she said,”Inaction is an action. Silence is indifference. Justice requires action and a voice–and that is what has happened here in this court.”

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