A massive case involving over a hundred women and girls shined a light on the horrid sexual abuse and cover-up that took place within the USA Gymnastics program. For decades children were “sacrificed” and their abusers “protected,” according to one of the victims. In 2017, the man at the center of the depravity pleaded guilty to multiple charges of sexual assault against children and was sentenced to decades behind bars. We would later find out that the FBI knew about the abuse and allowed the depraved child predator, Larry Nassar, to continue preying on little girls for more than a year after finding out.
Despite these facts, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) on Thursday announced that it will adhere to a previous decision not to charge the two former FBI agents involved in the mishandled investigation.
“This decision comes after multiple reviews and analyses of evidence gathered in the investigation of the former agents, and reflects the recommendation of experienced prosecutors,” the DOJ statement reads.
“This does not in any way reflect a view that the investigation of Nassar was handled as it should have been, nor in any way reflect approval or disregard of the conduct of the former agents.”
The horrid nightmare that is sexual abuse within the US Olympic gymnastics program was brought to light in 2016 when former gymnast Rachael Denhollander called for a regime change within the organization. Denhollander is one of more than 125 victims, including US Olympic champion and three-time gold medalist, Aly Raisman, who came forward with evidence of cover-ups and abuse.
According to a report from the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Indianapolis FBI office facilitated this abuse as it violated agency procedures, made false statements and exhibited “extremely poor judgment” in the handling of 2015 sexual abuse allegations against Nassar.
“Senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis Field Office failed to respond to allegations of sexual abuse of athletes by former USA Gymnastics physician Lawrence Gerard Nassar with the urgency that the allegations required,” the inspectors general’s office said in a statement.
“We also found that the FBI Indianapolis Field Office made fundamental errors when it did respond to the allegations, failed to notify the appropriate FBI field office (the Lansing Resident Agency) or state or local authorities of the allegations, and failed to take other steps to mitigate the ongoing threat posed by Nassar.”
As USA Today reported at the time, in a joint interview with USA TODAY Sports and the Associated Press, Raisman said revelations of widespread abuse by longtime team physician Larry Nassar and the reaction by the governing bodies has colored how she views her sport.
“The people at the very top, that work at the office every single day at USA Gymnastics, they need to do better,” Raisman said.
Now, however, it must sting even worse knowing that law enforcement — who claims to keep Americans safe — allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue for more than a year. According to USA Today:
After eight months of inaction by the FBI Indianapolis Field Office, the FBI Los Angeles Field Office received the same allegations. The OIG found that while the Los Angeles Field Office took numerous investigative steps, it too failed to notify the FBI Lansing Resident Agency or state or local authorities of the allegations, and failed to take other steps to mitigate the ongoing threat posed by Nassar.
The FBI Lansing Resident Agency did not become aware of the Nassar allegations until after the Michigan State University Police Department (MSUPD) executed a search warrant on Nassar’s residence in September 2016, following the MSUPD’s receipt of separate complaints of sexual abuse by Nassar, and discovered child pornography at Nassar’s residence.
During this period from July 2015, when the allegations were first reported to the FBI, to September 2016, Nassar continued to treat gymnasts at Michigan State University, a high school in Michigan, and a gymnastics club in Michigan. Ultimately the investigations determined that Nassar had engaged in sexual assaults of over 100 victims and possessed thousands of images of child pornography, led to his convictions in federal and state court, and resulted in Nassar being sentenced to incarceration for over 100 years.
Because the FBI took no action, for a year, Nassar was allowed to continue to prey on his child victims, and countless more girls were raped or molested.
Raisman was apparently one of the victims who may have been saved had the FBI taken action. She revealed that she had been molested in a CBS News 60 Minutes interview in 2017. She was captain of the teams that won gold medals for the United States at the London and Rio Olympics in 2012 and 2016.
“I am angry,” Raisman said. “I’m really upset because I care a lot, when I see these young girls that come up to me, and they ask for pictures or autographs, whatever it is, every time I look at them, every time I see them smiling, I just think I just want to create change so that they never, ever have to go through this.”
“For me, the scariest night of my life happened when I was 15 years old. I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo. He’d given me a sleeping pill for the flight, and the next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a ‘treatment.’ I thought I was going to die that night,” USA Gymnast McKayla Maroney wrote on Twitter before her account was deactivated.
Nassar spent nearly 30 years as an osteopath with the USA Gymnastics program and prior to pleading guilty to these charges he’s been in prison in Michigan after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. More than 500 women and girls have now alleged they were sexually assaulted by this monster.
The group of victims sent a letter to the inspector general last year demanding to know why the FBI engaged in the “cover up” of a serial child predator.
“It is clear that the FBI failed to protect our nation’s finest athletes and many other vulnerable children and young women from a vicious sexual predator,” said the letter to Michael Horowitz, the Inspector General, that was signed by more than 120 Nassar survivors. “But we still do not know who exactly in the FBI participated in the cover up and whether misconduct reached into the higher ranks of the Justice Department.”
These victims will likely take no solace in the statement from the DOJ in which they claim “We will continue to learn from what occurred in this matter, and undertake efforts to keep victims at the center of our work and to ensure that they are heard, respected, and treated fairly throughout the process, as they deserve.
“To that end, the department has continued to assess gaps in the law to protect the most vulnerable among us from exploitation. Addressing those gaps could help prevent events like this from taking place in the future and hold perpetrators accountable. We stand ready to collaborate with Congress to do so.”