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USA Gymnastics settles with abused athletes

The settlement was announced on Monday by the federal bankruptcy court in the Southern District of Indiana. USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy protection in 2018, following a deluge of lawsuits over years of Nassar’s abuse.

“This chapter is finally closed,” tweeted Rachael Denhollander, whose 2016 complaint brought Nassar’s abuses to light. “Now the hard work of reform and rebuilding can begin. Whether or not justice comes and change is made, depends on what happens next.”

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This was a reference to the “restorative justice” program, which USA Gymnastics agreed to set up in addition to the payments, in order to give Nassar’s victims a say in how it deals with future allegations of sexual abuse.

Attorney Mick Grewal, who represented dozens of plaintiffs in the case, described the program as “the gold standard for every institution that has a sexual assault problem.”

One of the largest-ever settlements in a sexual abuse case, the fund will go towards compensating victims like Olympic medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, as well as others who were abused by the gymnastics team’s former head doctor. Denhollander said many of the victims have battled depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and even suicidal tendencies in the aftermath of their abuse.

“No amount of money will ever repair the damage that has been done and what these women have been through,” she said. “But at some point, the negotiations have to end because these women need help – and they need it right now.”

While most of the settlement will be paid by insurance companies, the US Olympic and Paralympic committee will pay $34 million and give another $6 million to USA Gymnastics as a loan. Previously, the USOPC argued it could not be held liable to Nassar’s abuses, since he wasn’t their employee. The settlement will now help USOPC avoid being decertified as an Olympic organization. 

Although the FBI initially ignored complaints about Nassar, he was eventually arrested and tried for abuse of gymnasts under his care. A federal court sentenced him in 2017 to 60 years in prison on charges of possession of child sex abuse materials. The following year, he was sentenced to a combined maximum of 300 years by Michigan courts for abusing female gymnasts he treated over the years. Michigan State University, where Nassar taught and practiced between 1997 and 2016 and where much of the abuse took place, settled with survivors for $500 million in 2018.

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