Cruel optimism as organizing strategy in USA Gymnastics: The threat of high-stakes organizations in precarious times. By: Way, Amy K. Human Relations. Dec2021, p1.

In January of 2018, after decades of sexual abuse of hundreds of athletes under his medical care, USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar faced 156 of the women he victimized when they testified at his sentencing hearing and detailed the abuse. In the wake of the Nassar verdict, gymnastics and other youth sports organizations have come under fire for abusive practices that victimize young athletes. Scholars have recently argued for an approach to understanding sexual violence as an organizational, rather than individual, phenomenon. The power organizations possess to inflict violence on their members requires an understanding of the increased role of organizations in our decision-making and shaping our values and desires. Through an analysis of testimonies submitted by women who were victimized by Nassar as children, I argue that violence was intentionally deployed as an organizing strategy by USA Gymnastics. Abusive organizational practices traumatized girls, leading them to recalibrate their expectations for what was normal and acceptable, ultimately facilitating their abuse. I propose “high-stakes organizations” as contexts particularly vulnerable to violent organizational practices. I argue, in these high-stakes organizations, trauma is likely to be deployed as a strategy for organizational commitment, further fostering precarity in modern organizations.