SAU Buzz

USA Gymnastics at fault for doctor’s abuse?

by Mary Roche
Posted on Feb 02, 2018

In one of the most public sexual assault scandals in recent years, former USA Gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar has been found guilty of molestation, criminal sexual conduct and child pornography charges. This sentencing is the result of of one woman speaking out and others following her lead in the fall of 2016. It is unknown how many people Nassar abused, but over 150 women have said that he assaulted them.

Nassar has received two of three sentences, one for each crime to which he pled guilty. But what happened that this abuse was allowed to continue for so long? (The earliest sexual assault claim was made in 1997). As a celebrated professional, Nassar was employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, the body that governs gymnastics sporting and athletes in the US.

Through his positions, Nassar treated countless young women for various reasons, primarily athletes. Because he was in a position of authority, girls who reported his abuse were written off as not understanding their treatment. Some were also made to feel crazy for thinking Nassar’s “treatment” was inappropriate.

“This, what it took to get here,” Gymnast Rachel Denhollander said in her statement to Nassar at the sentencing hearing, “what we had to go through for our voices to be heard because of the responses of the adults in authority has greatly compounded the damage we suffer and it matters.”

Denhollander was one of the first people to accuse Nassar of molestation. In her statement, she asked Michigan State University whether their employees protect students.

Many of Nassar’s victims are wondering if USAG also wanted to protect gymnasts, but after multiple survivors wrote to the Indy Star in 2016 about their abuse, USAG and the U.S. Olympic Committee said nothing.

"The next day, the USOC said they wouldn't investigate (and even praised USAG's work in the area of sexual abuse.)" Olympic medalist Aly Raisman tweeted.

Continually, adults that these survivors trusted did nothing to investigate or stop Nassar from interacting with children. In September of 2016, however, Olympic medalist Jamie Dantzscher filed an official lawsuit against USAG for dismissing allegations about Nassar’s behavior. Nassar was fired soon after for not following guidelines required by MSU after a 2014 sexual abuse claim. He later pled guilty to criminal charges in Michigan.

Now the USOC is calling for every member of the USA Gymnastics board to resign.

"While the USOC encourages USAG to think and act broadly on reforming its culture, we also believe that reform must start with an entirely new board," USOC chief executive Steve Blackmun said in a recent statement.

Blackmun’s letter to Team USA requires USAG to follow many points to reform the gymnastics culture. An interim USAG board should be appointed by March and all USAG officials must be trained in SafeSport, which attempts to ensure positive experiences for athletes.

They also plan on launching a third party investigation. Blackmun said it will be important to know who received complaints and when. The results of the investigation will be made public.

“As it pertains to U.S.A. Gymnastics,” Olympic medalist Shawn Johnson said on her YouTube channel, “every single procedure, rule, guideline, rule book you’ve ever made needs to be thrown out the window and redone.”

These consequences are important, but not everyone is convinced that the USOC wants the best for their athletes. Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney accused Nassar of molestation in received $1.25 million to sign an NDA about her assault. Michigan State University heard reports of Nassar’s abuse as early as 1997 and did nothing. USAG and the USOC did not reach out to survivor Aly Raisman.

"Everyone stood up for him," Raisman said to "The View." "My work, and the army of survivors, we're not done yet. We still have to hold these organizations accountable."