Larry Nassar sexual abuse victims sue FBI for $1 billion
Larry Nassar during a plea hearing on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan.
Larry Nassar during a plea hearing on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan.Paul Sancya (AP)

After a devastating report revealed last year that the FBI’s failures in the investigation allowed sports doctor Larry Nassar to continue abusing dozens of gymnasts, almost a hundred victims of the sexual predator, in his day doctor of the women’s gymnastics team of USA, have decided to sue the federal agency, the main body of the US Department of Justice. Among the plaintiffs, who in total request compensation of more than a billion dollars, is the top staff of the Olympic team, with Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, all of them gold medalists, at the head.

According to the more than 90 plaintiffs, the FBI failed miserably in 2015 to investigate Nassar’s actions when it already had credible information about his sexual assaults. The irregularities of the agents only deserved the consideration of “false testimony” after an evaluation by the agency’s internal control body. It is the straw that has broken the patience of women, immersed for more than five years in a process of personal reconstruction in which each notch in the case represents a new chapter of suffering, rather than reparation.

“My fellow survivors and I were betrayed by all the institutions that were supposed to protect us: the US Olympic Committee, [la Federación de] USA Gymnastics, the FBI and now the Justice Department,” Maroney said in a statement on Wednesday. “It is clear that the only path to justice and healing is through the legal process.”

“If the FBI had just done their job, Nassar would have been caught before he had a chance to abuse hundreds of girls, including me,” said Samantha Roy, a former Michigan State University gymnast who employed Nassar.

Last July, those responsible for the internal investigation corroborated serious mistakes in the early stages of the investigation, in 2015, by the two agents attached to the Indianapolis office, as a result of which the predator of more than 330 women -the number proven at trial – continued to act with impunity. Despite this, the Department of Justice refused two weeks ago to file criminal charges against the agents for the chain of errors that left an undetermined number of young people unprotected for more than a year, before Nassar was arrested at the end of 2016 in Michigan. . Last December, more than 500 girls closed a $380 million settlement with the Gymnastics Federation to end five years of litigation. Two years earlier, in 2018, Michigan State University had agreed to another $500 million deal with 332 of them.

The Department of Justice had already announced last summer that it would not file criminal charges against FBI agents who underestimated the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse, although it later acknowledged that their actions had violated the agency’s rules. In September, Olympic stars Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisma told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the FBI had “turned a blind eye,” allowing an abuser to go free for more than a year.

The MeToo of sport

The biggest sexual abuse scandal in American sports unfolded in parallel to the emergence of the MeToo movement, which broke the silence of hundreds of women abused by men in positions of power. A case in which Nassar fits, who took advantage of his influence on the girls to act with impunity and in silence. As a bitter metaphor, the legal fight of the survivors has also run parallel to the bankruptcy file of the gymnastics federation itself in the State of Indiana, after dragging a deficit since the nineties, throughout four Olympic Games. During this long period, the complaints were repeatedly ignored by the leadership of the federation, who tried to distance themselves from the sexual predator by stating that he never worked directly for the organization.

Despite the evidence received by the FBI in 2015, the scandal was made public after an investigation by the newspaper The Indianapolis Star. Two years later Nassar was sentenced to life in prison for crimes of assault, sexual assault, child pornography and evidence tampering. The first woman to break the silence was medalist Jamie Dantzscher, who went to court in September 2016. In 2018, hundreds of women were already seeking compensation for abuse, which contributed to the federation’s bankruptcy declaration. In repeated agreements, the victims have not only obtained financial compensation, but also a public voice and, some of them, the seal of activists against abuse. The milestone in his fight for justice was the hearing of the Senate committee on the actions of the FBI. Viewers were able to hear athletes like Biles, winner of 25 metals in seven Games, recount dramatic experiences that spanned years. All of them agreed that if the FBI had acted earlier, at least 70 colleagues would have been able to avoid Nassar’s clutches.

“The agent who interviewed me wanted to convince me that it was not worth opening a criminal case against him,” Aly Raisman, winner of six medals between London and Rio, told the senators, whom she said she had insisted for 14 months to talk to FBI investigators. When she got it, and she was able to tell them how Nassar had fingered her genitals for hours when she was 13, she was told, “Is that all?” Nassar abused many members of the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams. In January 2018, he received a sentence of 40 to 175 years in prison, which was added to the other 60 he was already serving in prison for child pornography crimes.

Simone Biles spared no criticism of the authorities. “I blame the sexual abuse on Nassar and the entire system that allowed it,” said the woman who introduced herself to senators as a “survivor of sexual abuse.” The owner of 25 medals in world championships, and seven in the Olympic Games, she assumed in the Tokyo Games, last July, that she was not in a position to compete due to suffering a psychological block. With that confession, unthinkable just a few years earlier, Biles became a champion of the nascent, and increasingly widespread, movement of elite athletes for mental health. “I don’t want any other young Olympian or anyone else to suffer the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured and continue to endure to this day,” Biles told senators. She was the hindrance of those abuses, plus the pressure of high competition, which paralyzed her in Tokyo. Also, probably, the fatigue of litigating for years so that her voice, and those of hundreds of her companions, would be heard.

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