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Former U.S. Gymnasts Break Silence on Alleged Sexual Abuse by Team Doctor

The Victims

  • Gymnasts Lindsey Lemke can’t remember the first time her team doctor Larry Nassar allegedly sexually abused her. She was only 13 when she started seeing Dr. Nassar for back and hip issues for six years. She decided to break silence in July 2017 in a story for Cosmopolitan where she alleges that Nassar would “work his way toward her butt—before kneading her vagina over her clothes. Then he’d slip a hand down the back of her underwear and start stroking her bare skin. Finally, he’d push a finger inside of her.” Lemke alleges that Dr. Larry Nassar sexually abused her more than 600 times during her “treatment for sports injuries” since the age of 13. To add insult to injury, Nassar justified his perpetration by saying that if he “inserted a finger and pressure-pointed a certain area, it would make it feel better.”
  • McKayla Maroney, a member of the USA’s famed ”Fierce Five” team that won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, said she suffered abuse from Nassar over the course of multiple years, according to her heart rendering account posted to Twitter. Maroney wrote that the abuse began she was 13 years old. She was inspired by the “#MeToo” posts on social media in which hundreds of thousands of women have come forward about their experiences with sexual assault.
  • Rachel Denhollander a former USA gymnast, alleged that Nassar massaged her breast and digitally manipulated her on multiple occasions while he was supposed to be treating her for pain. Denhollander said that during one of her appointments, Nassar had a “very clear erection” and that his “eyes were closed, his face was flushed, and he was breathing very heavily.
  • Since then, more than 100 women have come forward alleging Nassar sexually abused them.

The Doctor

    • Larry Nassar is a prominent sports medicine doctor and former USA gymnastics team physician. Nassar had unfettered access to young elite athletes and is accused of sexually assaulting them. And there was no one to stop him. No one. Why is that? How do we leave innocent young women in the hands of predators without any supervision, accountability, or legal recourse?
      Because we don’t want to face it, we don’t want to hear it, we want to put our hands over our ears and hum, to block out the reality of the wholesale sexual assault and violence our culture perpetrates against females. And we certainly don’t want to hear about doctors taking sexual advantage of patients.

USA Gymnastics lawyers ‘tried to dig up dirt on gymnast’s sexual history
The case has uncovered the harrowing truths about the world of competitive sports. There is wholesale sexual assault and abuse of young elite athletes and the response from USA Gymnastics is to attack the victims by digging up past boyfriends, sexual indiscretions, rumors, and innuendos to discredit the victims as well as pollute the potential jury pool. USA Gymnastics is unleashing their high-priced attack-dog lawyers, private investigators, and PR machines to discredit the women who have spoken up and to send a menacing message to future victims, “shut up, put up, put out.”
It makes me ashamed of my profession. An Olympic gymnast allegedly sexually y abused by the team doctor claims lawyers for USA Gymnast tried to dig up dirt on her sexual history after she filed a lawsuit against him, court documents obtained by revealed.
Why criminal prosecution for sexual abuse of international athletes may prove impossible

  • Nassar’s international acts of sexual abuse will be difficult if not impossible to criminally prosecute. The allegations are that he abused multiple victims during the Olympic and other international events.
  • Nasser has pleaded guilty to federal pornography charges, admitting that he collected and possessed thousands of images of child pornography.

Charging Nassar for alleged perpetration against young athletes internationally is challenging because there is a matrix of complicated legal issue when attempting to navigate international law. Which country should hear the case, what laws or statutes apply, what is the power of attorneys in the US to enforce sexual assault, abuse, and harassment internationally?
What is abundantly clear, is that doctors are given free access to young elite athletes knowing they are playing Monopoly and they have a free “get out of jail card” in their back pocket. What it gives these perpetrators, predators and pedophiles is unfettered access to vulnerable young women without fear of consequences. What it says to our top athletes is you don’t matter.
Young Athletes are Particularly Vulnerable to Doctor Sexual Abuse
Athletes are in a competition to win, and their body is critical to achieving the goal. Lindsey Lemke and the other athletes who have spoken up are a perfect example of the victimization that comes from relationships of unequal power.
Add to this scenario, young vulnerable girls and unlimited hours of unrestrained entrée to these young girls by top coaches, trainers and sports doctors and you have the perfect predator petri dish for sexual assault and abuse.
Who hasn’t felt that drop in the pit of your stomach at the sight of the godlike doctor? The doctor-patient relationship is one of absolute trust sprinkled with a hint of intimidation. The white coat, the silver stethoscope, the hushed tone when the “Doctor” comes into the room, makes us all, but particularly children, young adults, the elderly, vulnerable to sexual violence, assault and abuse from the medical profession.
Predators are gold medalists in the art of grooming young athletes
They are masters at building a relationship of confidence, trust, and love. Like Dr. Nassar, they often offer a listening ear and special emotional support. Ms. Lemke says, “If you had a bad day with a coach, he would talk to you about it. “If you had a fight, you’re your mom “he would be there to talk about it”. Predators groom by lavishing their target victim with gifts, extravagances and special treatment. At the same time, they are grooming the victim, these predators, (particularly pedophiles) are grooming the community. Skilled manipulators, they cultivate a close relationship with parents, coaches, trainers, community leaders, churches and clubs, socializing with them in the neighborhood and seen as esteemed figures of respect, trust and glamour.
Young athletes who have been taught to win at all costs become susceptible — along with their parents — to manipulation and predatory behavior by men like Nassar who have the power to lead them to triumph. Coveted coaches, top sport doctors, trainers are elevated to star-like status, enjoying unfettered access to cloistered young athletes.
And the message is “put up and shut up.” These young girls are not encouraged or allowed to speak up. They are silenced by the predator as well as by parents and the community. It’s an environment where the coach, the doctor, the trainer, rules. You don’t get far as a young athlete by questioning those in power or speaking back. The young girls that reach the pinnacle of success in their sport are those that have learned to passively submit to the men in power. These men are seen as having the young girls interests at heart. The girls are groomed to be silent, respectful winners. Nobody likes a complainer, a challenger to the authority predators holds most dear.
Athletes are particularly vulnerable with few legal protections afforded to other victims. There needs to be legislation that would require sports organizations to report abuse claims to law enforcement (that is not currently required). There needs to be national awareness and effort to do more to protect athletes from sexual abuse. Parents need to stop giving autonomous discretion and access to their children without requiring adult overseeing, reporting, and accountability. You wouldn’t just hand over your cocker spaniel to anyone, why your child? And USA teams and sports organizations need to do more to combat sexual abuse. There needs to be international treaties and laws that regulate sexual assault, sexual abuse, violence spelling out what the penalties are, which courts have jurisdiction, and what laws apply. The legal loopholes currently in place only serve to protect the vile.
Unfortunately, Lindsey Lemke and the other victims’ stolen innocence is just the tip of the sexual abuse iceberg. We thank her and all others for their bravery and courage in speaking up so that others can find their voice.

“Being sexually abused at such an early age was the scar on my soul. But I feel like it ultimately made me into the person I am today. I understand the journey of life. I had to go through what I went through to be here. But now it’s time to take action to save the next generation of women and children from what we went the

Shari Karney is a survivor’s attorney. She represents victims of child sexual abuse by sexual predators such as a member of the clergy, a teacher, celebrity, sports coach, wealthy businessman or any other powerful person, Karney Law is here for you.

Shari Karney, Attorney at Law
Child Sexual Abuse Attorney
A Survivor’s Attorney