Hundreds of USA Gymnastics sexual assault victims reach £288m settlement over abuse | Olympics News

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A federal bankruptcy court in Indianapolis on Monday ended the legal wrangling between USA Gymnastics and the victims of former national team doctor Larry Nassar and other individuals affiliated with the organisation

Last Updated: 13/12/21 10:34pm

Rachael Denhollander was among hundreds of victims of sexual assault during her time in US Gymnastics

Rachael Denhollander was among hundreds of victims of sexual assault during her time in US Gymnastics

A £288m ($380m) settlement between USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and hundreds of victims has been reached as part of the largest sexual abuse investigation in the history of US sport.

A federal bankruptcy court in Indianapolis on Monday ended the legal wrangling between USA Gymnastics and the victims of former national team doctor Larry Nassar and other individuals affiliated with the organisation.

Over 90 per cent of the victims, who number more than 500, voted in favour of the tentative agreement reached in September, which called for £322million ($425m) in damages, but was modified under conditional approval by the courts.

More than 300 victims were abused by Nassar, with the remaining victims abused by others within USA Gymnastics in some capacity.

A series of nonmonetary provisions will also make the victims stakeholders at USA Gymnastics going forward; they include a dedicated seat on the organisations board of directors and a thorough look at the culture and practices within USA Gymnastics that allowed abusers like Nassar to run unchecked for years.

“USA Gymnastics is deeply sorry for the trauma and pain that Survivors have endured as a result of this organization’s actions and inactions,” USAG President and CEO Li Li Leung said. “The Plan of Reorganization that we jointly filed reflects our own accountability to the past and our commitment to the future.

“Individually and collectively, Survivors have stepped forward with bravery to advocate for enduring change in this sport. We are committed to working with them, and with the entire gymnastics community, to ensure that we continue to prioritize the safety, health, and wellness of our athletes and community above all else.”

Hundreds of girls and women have said Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics – which trains Olympians – and a Michigan gym that is member of USA Gymnastics.

He pleaded guilty in federal court to child pornography crimes before pleading guilty in state court to sexually assaulting female gymnasts, and he was sentenced to between 40 and 175 years in prison in 2018.

Rachael Denhollander, who in the fall of 2016 was the first woman to come forward, said the provisions were a pivotal part of the mediation process. “It’s not about money, it’s about change,” she told the Associated Press in a phone interview on Monday. “It’s about an accurate assessment of what went wrong so that it is safer for the next generation.

Denhollander has been one of the most outspoken victims from the outset of the scandal. She said it was important to move past the legal proceedings so women can move forward with their lives and get the help they need.

“The frank reality is the longer this goes on, the more difficult it is for survivors,” she said. “So many of these women, they can’t access medical care without a settlement. We had to balance that reality with the length of time it was taking. We felt it was in the best interest of everyone to accept this settlement … so that survivors would receive some semblance of justice.”

Denhollander also pointed out that some of the medical care required is not covered by certain types of insurance and that the settlement will ease part of the financial burden.

It comes nearly four years after an emotional sentencing hearing in Michigan in which hundreds of women detailed their experiences with Nassar and the toll it took on their lives.

“We prevailed for one simple reason; the courage and tenacity of the survivors,” attorney John Manly, who represented dozens of women, said in a statement. “These brave women relived their abuse publicly, in countless media interviews, so that not one more child will be forced to suffer physical, emotional, or sexual abuse in pursuit of their dreams.”

Denhollander described the five-plus years from when she first approached reporters at the Indianapolis Star to the settlement on Monday as “hellish”.

She said: “To have to push for so long for the right things to take place, to have to push for so long to have justice happen … it should have never taken five years.”

USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy in November 2018 in an effort to consolidate the various lawsuits filed against it into one place. The move also forced the USOPC to halt the decertification process it began against USA Gymnastics.

The organization has undergone a massive leadership overhaul in the interim and the settlement will allow it to continue in that capacity going forward.

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