Young gymnasts all over the country have faced a lot more damage than the broken bones and bruises of their sport.
Sexual abuse of gymnasts has led to criminal charges and numerous lawsuits. The highest profile has been the case of Larry Nassar, a national team doctor who allegedly abused hundreds of girls under the guise of providing medical care. In addition to criminal charges against Nassar, hundreds of lawsuits were filed against the organizations entrusted with keeping the athletes safe, including USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Olympians Simone Biles and Aly Raisman are among the Olympic stars who say they were abused by Nassar.
But the sport’s problems are broader than one man. An Indianapolis Star USA Today investigation in 2016 found 368 gymnasts who had made claims of abuse. The report details accusations of children as young as 6 being photographed nude and other girls having coaches stick their fingers inside the athlete’s leotard.
In September, coach Terry Gray was indicted on dozens of charges of sexual improprieties, including five counts of sexual abuse and numerous counts of lewdness with a minor under 14, according to the Review-Journal in Las Vegas, where he was a coach from 2009-2015.
The ability of victims to pursue civil lawsuits against USA Gymnastics will be determined by a ruling on whether the organization can file bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. USA Gymnastics filed for protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana. But a committee of abuse survivors has fought the idea and is pressing for more transparency about how Nassar abused so many girls for so many years. That suit is separate from the $500 million settlement for victims made by Michigan State University, which employed Nassar.
Nassar pled guilty to criminal charges and will spend the rest of his life in prison. A new Netflix documentary, “Athlete A” recounts the broader picture of sexual abuse in the sport and paints a picture of USA Gymnastics as not routinely alerting the proper authorities about allegations of abuse.
In October, President Trump signed into law legislation giving Olympic athletes more protection and more say in their sports. The Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act also allows Congress to step in if governing officials don’t follow through with reforms.
Some sexual predators are drawn into coaching the sport because of the access to young girls, said Rich Newsome of Newsome Melton.
“A supervisor cannot have sex with a young employee because he’s in a position of authority. You mix that with these are minors and it’s so wrong,” said Newsome.
If you have questions about this topic or need assistance filing a sexual abuse claim, Newsome Melton can help. Contact us at 1-888-380-2809.