The United States has seen its fair share of scandals in the world of sports. Point shaving schemes by the Boston College basketball team, deflated balls that were under the control of the Patriots during a championship football game, and an illegal gambling ring allegedly run by a National Hockey League assistant coach are just a few of the scandals that have shocked the nation. However, in these cases, no physical harm came to the victims of these schemes. Sadly, that is not always the case.
The most recent report of an ongoing issue in a sport has shaken the gymnastics world to the core, after more than 100 women have filed lawsuits, all alleging that they were sexually abused by the same man.
According to the complaints, which have been filed against Dr. Larry Nassar, Michigan State University, and USA Gymnastics, allege that Nassar has been sexually abusing women and girls in the sport since at least 1997. Some of his victims were as young as 12 years old.
Nassar, who worked as the USA Gymnastics team doctor during four Olympic games and was a faculty member of MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, is accused of touching his patients both vaginally and anally, inserting his fingers without warning, without the cover of gloves, and without lubrication during physical exams. In some instances, he made an inappropriate sexual comment while penetrating them and then gave the minors gifts, as though this would make up for the harm and trauma he caused them.
While there are times that a doctor does need to examine the vagina – when a gymnast is complaining of hip or back pain, this action is certainly not considered the standard of care. Under no circumstances should a patient find themselves being penetrated without permission and a full discussion of why the doctor is choosing that course of action.
In addition to these allegations, Nassar has been arrested and charged with possession of child pornography, including images that showed children under the age of 12.
In September of 2015, before the public was made aware of any of these charges, he resigned from the USA Gymnastics team and in 2016, he was fired by MSU. In addition to this, Michigan regulators have revoked his medical license.
Nassar claims that he is completely innocent and says that his interactions with these victims were medically legitimate.
Why Are Plaintiffs Suing MSU and USA Gymnastics?
The complaints filed against these two administrations indicate that the victims feel that neither organization did enough to protect the athletes who were attacked.
In fact, the U.S. Olympic Committee called for the CEO and president of USA Gymnastic to resign, announcing that the committee believed he had not done enough to protect gymnasts by failing to respond to allegations quickly enough or at all.
Why Didn’t The Victims Come Forward Sooner?
There are many reasons why the victims of sexual assault don’t come forward. This may include:
- Fear: In many cases, their abuser has threatened them or someone they love if they report the abuse.
- Confusion: Young children don’t always understand that what has happened to them is abuse. They know it didn’t feel good or right, but have a difficult time understanding that an adult does bad things that should be reported. This can be doubly difficult if the person who is the abuser is a doctor that they are supposed to trust.
- Embarrassment: Even though victims have nothing to be ashamed about, it’s not uncommon for them to feel like they’ve done something wrong or that they could have stopped their abuser if they had only done something different.
Whatever their reason, coming forward is a difficult and stressful decision and anyone who chooses to do so should be fully supported.
What Are The Victim’s Options?
While it may bring many of the victim’s relief, knowing that criminal charges have been pressed against Nassar and that he could potentially spend the rest of his life in prison where he can no longer hurt others, it won’t provide them with any monetary compensation.
By filing a sexual assault lawsuit, these brave girls and women may have the opportunity to recover compensation for their losses.
In addition to this, there are numerous support groups that are always ready and able to provide victims with the support they need and information on additional resources.