Gymnasts who were sexually abused by disgraced former US gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar will receive $380 million, after agreeing to a settlement with USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and their insurers.
The settlement is among the largest ever for a sexual abuse case, with the funds to compensate more than 500 abuse survivors, including well-known US gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman. The three women testified about the abuse they had survived during a US Senate hearing this year.
After a five- year legal battle, the settlement payment will go to female athletes who were abused by Nassar, their coach or someone else involved in the sport. The settlement also includes an agreement to give survivors a dedicated seat on the board of USA Gymnastics, and for the organisation to set up a restorative justice program.
Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison after being convicted of sexually abusing gymnasts while working as the team doctor at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. Previously in 2017, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for possessing child sex abuse material. USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy in 2018, after numerous allegations were levelled against Nassar.
Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to come forward publicly with allegations against Nassar back in 2016, welcomed the news of the settlement.
“This chapter is finally closed,” Denhollander posted to Twitter. “Now the hard work of reform and rebuilding can begin. Whether or not justice comes and change is made, depends on what happens next.”
“Important note about this settlement: while the majority of survivors are survivors of Nassar’s abuse, our settlement includes survivors abused by coaches and other officials in the sport.
“Some survivors are Olympians and elite gymnasts and wielded their platform powerfully. Most of the over 500 represented here, are not, but showed up over and over again. We did this together. Don’t forget their voices, what they gave, and what it took.”
According to the New York Times, it is unclear how much money would go to each survivor from the settlement, because an independent mediator would consider a range of factors like the length of time and severity of abuse when calculating the amount.
Following news of the settlement, Li Li Leung, CEO and President of USA Gymnastics said the organisation was “deeply sorry for the trauma and pain that survivors have endured” as a result of the organisation’s actions and inactions.
“The Plan of Reorganization that we jointly filed reflects our own accountability to the past and our commitment to the future,” Leung said.
“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.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that the settlement was reached after TIG Insurance agreed to pay a large portion of the settlement money.
In 2018, Michigan State University reached a settlement of $500 million with survivors of Nassar’s abuse.
In a statement, USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said the organisation recognises its role “in failing to protect these athletes” and apologised for the hurt survivors have endured.
“We have the deepest respect for the tremendous strength and bravery these women have shown,” she said in a statement.
“Reaching a financial resolution is one extremely important piece of the transformation that is taking place within our organization.
“In addition to actively participating in the mediation and contributing to the settlement, USOPC has enacted sweeping reforms to our governance structure to combat sexual abuse, support athletes and survivors and strengthen protections for athletes against any form of abuse.”