USA Gymnastics Lawsuit: Have the Sexual Abuse Victims Been Compensated?

By Emily Sortor (plaintiff attorney referral blog)
September 1, 2020

As more cases of alleged sexual assault are shared by victims who gain the courage to move forward, some of these receive a great deal of press. Many different organizations and individuals have come into the spotlight as a result of claims of sexual abuse and USA Gymnastics is one of them.

How Did the USA Gymnastics Abuse Occur?

The accused abuser in the USA Gymnastics scandal was Dr. Larry Nassar, a physician at Michigan State University. He ultimately pleaded guilty to federal child pornography and criminal sexual conduct charges. The women in these cases claim that Dr. Nassar took advantage of his position and used it to harm young women instead of helping them.

Dr. Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison as a result of these cases. The victims who have shared their stories so far largely came forward after an Indianapolis Star story broke over claims that USA Gymnastics did nothing even though many of these instances had been reported to their leadership. Michigan State has also been named in lawsuits due to its role in employing Nassar on its faculty.

The abuse allegedly happened during what was meant to be treatment. Victims said that every time they saw this doctor they were forced to cope with molestation and other forms of abuse.

In a 2018 article, The Guardian explored how Larry Nasser could have been possibly able to abuse so many patients for such a long time. Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman critiqued the culture of USA Gymnastics as a whole, saying that though the organization purportedly cares about athlete care, but fails to prioritize it in practice.

The Guardian highlights that a similar sentiment was expressed by Joan Ryan, who authored a book called Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, in 1995, that explored the effects of gymnastics on the athletes. She says that the organization teaches young girls and women to doubt their own experience, which makes it difficult to identify or respond to sexual assault like Nasser’s. 

In her words, “These girls are groomed from an incredibly young age to deny their own experience. Your knee hurts? You’re being lazy. You’re hungry? No, you’re fat and greedy. They are trained to doubt their own feelings, and that’s why this could happen to over 150 of them.”

Jennifer Sey, 1986 U.S. Champion and seven-times national gymnastics team members explained that if a gymnast recognized the abuse, they may feel dissuaded from coming forward about their experience for fear of jeopardizing their career. In her eyes, this was reflected in the Nasser case. 

The Guardian goes on to explain that critics like Sey have argued that USA Gymnastics hid knowledge of longstanding abuse in an effort to protect its reputation.

The Guardian further quotes Sey, who asserted that “Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee didn’t want to scare off sponsors and they didn’t want to risk the piles of Olympic medals. So they covered it up. And at a certain point they were so far in on the cover-up that they were implicated. So they dug in deeper to protect themselves from criminal and civil liability.” 

How Many Girls Have Come Forward?

Numerous women came forward in recent years to report that Dr. Larry Nassar abused them in the context of what was supposed to be treating injuries. At first, over 150 women came forward with their stories. Some of the women were successful Olympic gymnasts.

This story mirrors that of similar sexual abuse scandals that have broken in connection with the Roman Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal and the Boy Scouts, among others. In recent months, however, the number of victims swelled to over 300, the vast majority of them suffering abuse while they were minors.

Where is Larry Nassar Now?

The involved university is accused of letting the doctor continue to see patients even after the school had received information about his numerous sexual abuse cases.

Larry Nassar is currently serving his prison sentence for the above-mentioned crimes. He was originally in prison in Arizona but was assaulted there, after being placed in the prison’s general population. He is currently in prison in a different facility in Florida near Orlando serving the same sentence.

USA Gymnastics Settlement

Michigan State came to an agreement with over 300 survivors of the abuse for a total of $500 million. This settlement was announced a few months after Nassar received his sentence when the university was accused of failing to supervise or respond to claims of abuse about this physician.

Victims who filed complaints about Nassar could be entitled to their portion of the settlement fund, which will include payouts of between $250,000 and 2.5 million. Another $75 million has been earmarked for victims who have not yet come forward but might do so in the future.

If you or someone you know has been assaulted while under the care of another person, you might have grounds for a lawsuit. Top Class Actions can help you to find an attorney to pursue any related legal claims.

Filing a USA Gymnastics Lawsuit

In light of recent stories of abuse, numerous states have taken steps to give victims more opportunities to seek justice against their abusers and against institutions that they believe were complicit in their abuse. States including New York, California, New Jersey, and others, have moved to raise the statute of limitations for civil and criminal lawsuits addressing allegations of childhood sexual abuse.

Additionally, some states have created “look-back” windows, a limited period of time during which the statute of limitations no longer applies, which allows victims to bring claims forward against abusers,  no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.

Vermont has moved to eliminate the statute of limitations altogether, in what many say is one of the strongest child abuse law reforms in the country. 

These legal changes to acknowledge that in many cases, it can take years for a victim of childhood sexual abuse to realize that they were abused, come to terms with their abuse, or decide to seek justice. The reality that many victims might not realize they were abused, or may be too scared to come forward is echoed in statements made by Joan Ryan, Aly Raisman, and Jennifer Sey, as they spoke about the culture in USA Gymnastics that they felt enabled abuse by those in power.

Now, these state laws are giving victims like those who suffered abuse in USA Gymnastics the opportunity to pursue justice if they were abused as a minor. Because of these changes, if you suffer abuse as a minor in USA Gymnastics, you might have a legal claim, even if you previously did not.


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