Denhollander says lawsuits against FBI can prompt change

Olympic gold medalist Biles and other women seek more than $1 billion from FBI over Nassar

REUTERS June 09, 2022


Former gymnast and whistleblower Rachael Denhollander said lawsuits filed on Wednesday alleging the FBI botched its investigation into former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar could bring about meaningful change for survivors of abuse.

Olympians Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney were among the more than 90 claimants accusing former FBI agents of mishandling credible complaints in 2015 regarding Nassar and seeking a total of more than $1 billion.

They say the FBI's inaction allowed Nassar to continue molesting young women and girls up until the time he was charged in 2016.

FBI officials were not immediately available for comment. Denhollander, the first woman to accuse Nassar of abuse publicly, said she was not among the claimants because her abuse predated 2015, but that the lawsuits served as "a constant reminder of the massive levels of betrayal".

"The hope of all the survivors that are involved in the lawsuit is that it will spur on to meaningful change so that the next group of survivors who comes forward has a better system and has actual protection from our halls of justice," she told Reuters.

A former competitive gymnast who now works as an attorney and advocate for victims, Denhollander went public with her allegations against Nassar in 2016, prompting more than 350 other women to come forward.

Nassar was sentenced in 2018 to up to 175 years in prison for abusing young female gymnasts entrusted to his care.

Denhollander said she has been encouraged by growing global awareness of abuse in sport since that time, but cautioned against complacency.

"I am also starting to hear things like, 'Oh, we're hearing about this all the time'. Well, yes, because it's that big of a problem," she said.

"It's going to be up to us on a societal level to not grow weary in pushing for the reform and to not want to just close our eyes to what's happening."


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