I’m writing in hopes of helping amplify the courage and strength of Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to speak publicly about being sexually assaulted as a young gymnast by former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar. She, and all of the women standing with her, are beacons of hope for millions of survivors who feel like they’re without a voice. Their sacrifice mustn’t be forgotten when the headlines subside.

Children are now safe from Nassar, but the systemic issues persist. Cultural and legal change must occur to prevent such abuses of power. Light must be shed on the patterns that have led institutional leaders to turn a blind eye to abuse. It can’t and shouldn’t require investigative journalists, myriads of warning signs and public outcry for action to be taken.

This must be true both in the moment and in cases when allegations take years to surface. In the latter scenario, we can’t allow an “it happened before I got here” mentality to prevail. This inevitably discourages victims from coming forward, and casts those who do as villains in the community.

In 2014, I reported that I was abused at the hands of a former police officer. I had no idea the pain and complexity that would follow. Unlike Denhollander, I didn’t have the strength and poise required to make the progress she has. That said, I experienced enough to know that the institutional patterns are nearly identical. The way wagons get circled isn’t something I should have been surprised by.

I hope dynamics change quickly for survivors who find their voices to speak up. It’s an uncomfortable topic, and these are uncomfortable truths. The reality is, if you picture 10 children in your community, one of them is likely to be the victim of abuse before they turn 18. We must protect that child. We must fight the temptation to choose comfortable silence over the well-being of that boy or girl.

Matt Lauzon

Biddeford