It's a simple question regarding Larry Nassar, the imprisoned pedophile who raped hundreds of young gymnasts: "How did he deceive so many for so long?" The question is posed in the headline of a lengthy story at the Cut by Kerry Howley, who begins by disputing the notion that Nassar was brought down by young women who finally had the courage to break their silence. In fact, Cowley writes, Nassar's victims hadn't been all that silent over the course of 20 years of abuse. They told their parents, their coaches, the police, and authorities at Michigan State and at USA Gymnastics. And still Nassar went on abusing. His story, then, "is not a story of silence," writes Cowley. "The story of Larry Nassar is that of an edifice of trust so resilient, so impermeable to common sense, that it endured for decades against the allegations of so many women."
Cowley traces how a young Nassar began cultivating that trust, volunteering at a renowned gym and at major gymnastics events and establishing his reputation as someone who could help injured gymnasts get back on the mat. Eventually, he became the doctor that gymnasts wanted. "The trick was to establish traditional medical credibility and then get weird," writes Cowley. He embraced "pelvic-floor physical therapy," during which he regularly penetrated girls with his fingers, without explaining what he was doing or even using gloves. As it turns out, the shift from the view of Nassar from respected doctor to prolific pedophile didn't truly begin until Nassar tried to dump his trove of 37,000 pornographic images—including those showing the rape of infants and children—onto the street, only to have it recovered by a police officer. Click to read the full story. (Read more Longform stories.)