Fairfax Times: NOVA nonprofit combats institutional abuse in the wake of FBI failure in Larry Nassar case 

September 24, 2021

Dear Editor, 

The failures of both USA Gymnastics and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to appropriately address the sexual offenses of Larry Nassar enabled his crimes. This is institutional abuse, and it is not a new story. Organizations routinely side with employees and people in positions of power over the allegations of children, prioritizing their reputation over the safety of the children in their care.

The time for change is now, across the U.S. and here in Northern Virginia.

We know sexual abuse occurs in youth-serving organizations, but when we choose to ignore that it’s happening in our community, we enable this abuse to continue. Organizations that blame individuals as ‘bad apples,’ fail to believe children’s disclosures of abuse, or simply encourage an abuser to retire or “relocate” instead of addressing the issue are the problem. As one survivor said, “Do we blame the alligator—or the person who keeps feeding it children?” We believe it is the responsibility of every organization, and every adult, to protect children.

SCAN of Northern Virginia stands with survivors. We know institutional harm is a second betrayal. We don’t want apologies, excuses, or damage control statements; we want action and change.

SCAN’s new Institutional Abuse Prevention program plans to make institutions accountable, adults better prepared, and children safer in all the spaces they occupy. While we prepare to launch in Loudoun County this fall, know that our first and only priority is to make our community safe for all children, and we will not stop working and pushing until we succeed in Northern Virginia.

Leah Fraley

Executive Director, SCAN of Northern Virginia