Abigail Pesta: The Untold Story of the Gymnastics Sex Abuse Scandal

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Journalist and author, Abigail Pesta, joins the show to talk about her powerful new book The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down.

The Library Journal raves that the book “may be the most important sports title of the year.” And it’s full of breaking news and new insights into this saga, including:

  • The book reveals the very first Nassar survivor, and she tells her story for the first time.

  • The first survivor tells for the first time that the abuse went much further than people realize and that Nassar raped her.

  • She also says for the first time that coach John Geddert saw Nassar touching her sexually decades ago and did nothing—except mock her breasts.

  • Another gymnast says for the first time that Geddert groomed her into a sexual relationship when she was 18, on his path to becoming Olympic coach, violating the guidelines of Olympic watchdog SafeSport. The experience left her feeling discarded and suicidal.

  • The book reports for the first time how a savvy lawyer outfoxed Michigan State (where Nassar worked) into paying $500 million to survivors when it might have had to pay zero because it would have had legal immunity.

  • In the foreword to the book, Olympic medalist Tasha Schwikert reveals that she once stayed with Nassar for nearly a week at his home in Michigan, while he abused her an unthinkable three times a day under the guise of medical treatment.

  • Three-time national champion gymnast Jessica Howard reveals what is was like to experience the abuse from all sides—first as a gymnast and later as a board member of USA Gymnastics, the governing body of the sport, which profoundly failed the gymnasts. The experience left her reeling to the point that she had to check in to a psychiatric ward for treatment.

  • Abigail interviewed 25 survivors of the abuse, from the first survivor to the last, spanning decades, with many telling their stories for the first time. Some didn't realize they had been abused until they saw others talking about it in court on TV. They describe what it's like to come to terms with the realization that they were abused decades ago as children.

  • A dozen gymnasts described a mentally and physically abusive coaching environment under Geddert that they say made them susceptible to Nassar's sexual abuse.

Abigail takes us through how and why she wrote the book, some of her most shocking findings, and the one piece of writing advice she got from her brother that really helped her through. Abigail, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic, among many others, has carved out a niche for herself writing about women fighting back against injustice.

Jonathan SmallComment