The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down By Abigail Pesta

Holy shit this book is intense.

Firstly, let me start off by saying that I won’t be going into detail about what is in the book, as far as the stories go. I truly believe that these are the kind of books that as readers we need to experience firsthand.

Trigger warning for extremely graphic sexual assault and for suicide, self-harm and verbal abuse.

I started this book knowing the major details of the scandal. Having watch the HBO Documentary: At the Heart of Gold, I learned even more about the scandal than I had heard about in the news. What this book did is give readers an inside look into the beginning, middle and end of the abuser Larry Nassar’s grooming techniques; the disturbing coverups and dismissals of victims reporting the abuse; and reminds us that children do not think the same as adults.

For me watching the Olympics is all about gymnastics. Seeing people flying, flipping, jumping, hanging and vaulting is always exciting. So, when in 2016 I heard about the USA Gymnastics Scandal involving the team doctor Larry Nassar I was shocked. This industry that makes millions on the sponsorships and viewers and is admired by people all over the world couldn’t have allowed a predator access to young girls for 30 years. It sounds impossible that not one person spoke out in all that time.

But here is the thing, they did. We find out in this book that multiple girls across three decades reported the abuse to counselors, police and head people at MSU where Larry Nassar was employed.

The abuse in the book is bad extremely bad and the survivors are strong, brave and courageous. These survivors gave a voice to young girls who were silenced by years of not only the grooming techniques of the abuser but by the very people who should have protected them, coaches and people in authority who could and should have stopped the abuse from the very beginning.

This book was not easy to read. Let me tell you I really struggled with reading the accounts of abuse the women went through. After finishing this book, I realized that this is the kind of book that is so important. It shows us not only that abuse can happen anywhere to anyone but that we need better protocol for girls who are in an isolated sport like gymnastics. It shows us that we need to trust the instincts of young children. Take a more active roll in letting them know what is appropriate and what is crossing a line. That even doctors who are world renowned should be watch closely. That when kids say something is off, we need to ask them questions and find exactly the thing that is making them feel off.

Read this book and take note on how predators groom children. Read this book and know that you should stop at nothing to report what is making you uncomfortable even if you don’t know what is happening is abuse. Read this book and know that trusting your gut will never steer you wrong. Let this book remind you that surviving abuse of any kind makes you an incredible human.