A closed chapter. This is how former gymnast Rachael Denhollander has considered the damage reparation agreement reached on Monday by hundreds of victims of doctor Larry Nassar with the United States Gymnastics Federation. More than 500 athletes, including medalists Simon Biles, McKayla Maroney and Alyn Raisman, have won compensation of $ 380 million in what has been the largest sex abuse scandal in American sport.
The amount, which comes after a five-year judicial process, is the second largest ever awarded to victims of these sexual abuses in the United States. The University of Michigan, which employed Nassar, settled in 2018 for $ 500 million with 332 of the complainants. The figure for this Monday has come to light in the process that is being followed in the State of Indiana for the bankruptcy of the Gymnastics Federation, a metaphor for what happened with the body since the 90s and throughout four Olympic Games . A period in which Nassar abused hundreds of women. The complaints, however, were ignored by the leadership of the gymnastics apparatus. The scandal erupted in September 2016 when medalist Jamie Dantzscher finally went to court. She was followed in 2018 by hundreds of women who applied for compensation, financially undermining one of the pillars of local sport after decades of ignoring complaints and abuse.
The sum will be covered by the insurer TIG, although the pact requires contributing to the Olympic Committee 40 million dollars, six of them in a loan to the Federation. This is the first gesture of the committee, which during the past years tried to distance itself from the scandal by stating that Nassar never worked directly for him.
“Now is the time to reform and begin to rebuild. What comes next will depend on whether justice is done or not or if changes come, ”Denhollander said on social media after the pact was announced. The former athlete was one of the first to publicly accuse Nasser, who is serving a sentence of between 40 and 175 years in prison. The athlete has become an activist and today she has said proud of the non-monetary commitments that the federation has acquired, that it will have new leaderships that should publicly guide efforts to prevent abuses.
In September, several of Nasser’s victims went to the Senate to testify in the ongoing case about the mishandling of the case by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI. On the day, the world could hear from athletes like Biles, winner of 25 metals in seven Games, the tragic experiences. “They must be held accountable,” claimed the athletes, referring to the agents who did not investigate the first complaints, which could have reduced the number of women who were abused by Nassar by 70.
“The agent who interviewed me wanted to convince me that it was not worth opening a criminal case against Nassar,” Aly Raisman told the senators. The winner of six medals in London and Rio confessed to lawmakers that she insisted on speaking with the agents who carried out the investigations for 14 months. To another of the victims, McKayla Maroney, they said “is that all?” after she explained how the doctor had fingered her genitals for hours when she was 13 years old.
A devastating report published in July revealed the disaster of the FBI investigation. In July 2015 Steve Penny, the president of the Gymnastics Federation, came before them to denounce Nassar. The official told investigators that there were three athletes willing to speak with authorities to report the harassment. He also gave the agents a USB with photos and videos of alleged treatments that the doctor performed on his patients, most of them minors. The agents were hardly interested in the case. In September they listened to one of the victims. After this, the FBI did not conduct interviews or follow leads for more than eight months.
The damages settlement doesn’t just include some of America’s most successful gymnasts. It also features hundreds of anonymous young women from small local clubs who once crossed paths with Nassar in his office. To a lesser extent, there are some women who trained and who were not sexually abused, but psychologically abused by some members of the federation. “At a certain point the negotiations must be concluded because these women need help. And they need it now. The real repair process begins now, ”said Denhollander.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.