Justice Department Settles With Survivors Of Larry Nassar’s Sexual Abuse

Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance

The U.S Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it reached a $138.7 million settlement with survivors of disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse for the failures of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to properly investigate Nassar’s abuse.

The FBI’s response to Nassar’s abuse has been subject to public scrutiny, with a report from the Office of the Inspector General in July 2021 showing that the Indianapolis Field Office failed to inform other law enforcement agencies and possible victims of abuse after USA Gymnastics told them in July 2015 that several gymnasts had made accusations against Nassar.

It wouldn’t be until September 2016 that The Indianapolis Star first reported the accusations against Nassar. About 70 or more young athletes are estimated to have been sexually abused by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment between the time the FBI found out about the accusations and the nearly 15 months that went by without those accusations coming to light.

Nassar pleaded guilty in three criminal cases involving sexual assault and child pornography in courts from 2017 and 2018 and is serving essentially three life sentences in prison.

The inspector general’s reports says that “despite the extraordinarily serious nature of the allegations and the possibility that Nassar’s conduct could be continuing, senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis Field Office failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required, made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and violated multiple FBI policies.”

More than 100 athletes who survived Nassar’s sexual abuse joined in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice.

Olympic gymnasts, including Simone Biles, told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2021 how the FBI and other systems failed to protect young athletes from Nassar’s sexual violence.

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. … I don’t want another young gymnast, Olympic athlete or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured before, during and continuing to this day in the wake of the Larry Nasser abuse,” Biles said. “I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.”

As part of the fight against sexual violence, some survivors have joined and created different advocacy groups.

One such group, The Army of Survivors (TAOS) put out a statement Tuesday saying that although no amount of money can make up for the magnitude of pain so many survivors had to endure due to the betrayal of the systems meant to safeguard athletes, the settlement does mark an end to this legal fight.

“At this delicate juncture, The Army of Survivors (TAOS) stands in solidarity with the athlete-survivors who have persisted in bravely sharing their stories to create enduring change. Their unwavering voices have been pivotal in shedding light on systemic failures and have spurred a movement demanding accountability and reform,” the statement reads. “With this settlement, we do not seek to end the conversation; instead, we seek to amplify it, encouraging ongoing dialogue and action to safeguard the dignity and well-being of every athlete stepping into the arena of competition.”

TAOS co-founder and President Grace French offered her own statement. She is a survivor of Nassar’s abuse and has become a nationally recognized advocate for sexual assault survivor and athlete’s rights.

“This settlement marks not just a chapter’s close, but the start of a new narrative in sports — one where the voices of survivors catalyze the transformation towards an era of transparency, accountability, and safety for all athletes,” French said.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan J. Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

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