Sarah Dvojack was hooked on gymnastics as a year-old girl watching the 1996 Summer Olympics, and she’s been in love ever since.
So, when she learned that Dr. Larry Nassar had been sexual abusing gymnasts in his care for years and years, she – like most who watched the victims testify in court – was shocked and outraged.
“I felt kind of helpless because I can’t really do anything,” Dvojack told CNN. “I don’t know any of these people.”
The children’s book author and illustrator then did what she could: She drew.
And she drew and drew – sketching the survivors who spoke at the Ingham County, Michigan, hearing where Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison.
In all, she sketched 158 women. And then she posted them on Twitter.
If the women didn’t appear in court, she listed them by name. If they remained anonymous, she honored them as “Survivor 2” or “Survivor 177” – the numbers used to identify them in court.
‘A strange, incandescent rage’
Dvojack says she spent between 15 and 40 minutes on each image. She had planned to do a handful of drawings every day.
But a combination of deadline pressures and “a strange, incandescent, rage” about developments in the case drove her to crank out the entire project in nine days.
“There were a couple of nights where I didn’t sleep at all,” she said.
She watched each woman’s testimony to get a sense of their personalities – a defiant look, a smile at loved ones, or a smirk at the fact that they would be leaving the courtroom, while Nassar would most likely die in prison.
“I just wanted them to look strong,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that their humanity was represented as much as I could.”
Dvojack is not done.
She says she still wants to draw the women who spoke at the second sentencing hearing where Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison. Those sentences, combined with a separate child pornography case, mean that Nassar will serve at least 100 years.
“It’s a little thing that I thought I could do so people would remember what they said,” she said.