One Small Lawsuit, One Great Leap Towards Institutional Integrity

Aly Raisman has sued the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics over her alleged sexual abuse by Larry Nassar, former USA gymnastics doctor. The lawsuit also names Nassar as a co-defendant.

Larry Nassar, the once doctor for USA Gymnastics, is now a convicted child molester who has been sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting young girls and gymnasts, and 60 years for child pornography crimes at the federal level.

At trial earlier this year, Nassar admitted to abusing his position as a trusted medical professional in order to molest young women and girls. He pled guilty to only seven counts of sexual assault, but at trial more than 150 women came forward with allegations against the physician.

The three-time gold medalist and two-time U.S. Olympic gymnastics team captain spent months urging the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics to recognize the seriousness of Nassar’s abuse. Frustrated by a lack of progress, Raisman is taking the matter into her own hands and is now pursuing charges against the organizations themselves.

Why did it take so long for the abuse to be acknowledged?

Raisman filed the lawsuit in California on February 28th, alleging the negligence of the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics for their failure to ensure protocols were followed and for failing to monitor Nassar.

Raisman claims that the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics “knew or should have known” about the sexually abusive nature of Nassar.

The lawsuit states that the molestations of the Plaintiff (Raisman) occurred over several continents, on numerous occasions, and most importantly, that they could have been prevented.

Despite having knowledge of the sexually abusive nature of Nassar, the organizations put their quest for money and metals above the safety of the Plaintiff and other minor competitive athletes.

Raisman’s teammate, Simone Biles has also come forward about her sexual abuse by Nassar.

In response to the lawsuit, the U.S. Olympic Committee has released a statement declaring that they will prevent future incidents from occurring.

“We are very sorry that any athlete has been hurt by the despicable crimes of Larry Nassar.. . . USA Gymnastics is committed to doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again by making bold decisions and holding ourselves to the highest standards of care,” the U.S. Olympic Organization wrote in a statement.

Settlement seems to be the right course of action for these organizations. To continue to fight these women in court after Nassar’s trial will only prolong the agony of the victims, along with the rest of the world.

The lawsuit indicates that Nassar assaulted Raisman several times between 2010 and 2015, including during the 2012 Olympic Summer games in London where Raisman won two gold medals and a bronze medal.

Raisman claims that the trauma induced by Nassar’s abuse led to mental health issues such as depression, which resulted in a loss of millions of dollars.

The suit is seeking compensation for unspecified damages, but stands for something beyond money. Raisman’s decision to pursue legal action against the institutions even after the conviction of the individual represents a crucial shift taking place in our society. Not only are we seeing more recognition of the abuse of power performed by individuals, but cases like this show no tolerance for institutional harbouring. Individuals must be held responsible for their actions, and bureaucratic bodies must likewise be ready to take responsibility for the individuals that make up the whole. This lawsuit is a step towards the integrity that should be, but is not, universal, and will hopefully provide some degree of closure to those affected by the heinous acts of Nassar.