New Victims Target Larry Nassar—and Gymnastics’ International Governing Body, Too
Rebecca Whitehurst, who was on Team USA from 1995-1997, is the first victim to file suit against the International Federation of Gymnastics.
The Team USA victims of serial sexual abuser Larry Nassar are now turning their legal fire on gymnastics’ international governing body.
Among the seven new plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits against the USA Gymnastics team doctor is Rebecca Whitehurst, who on Wednesday became the first to file against the International Federation of Gymnastics, the Lausanne, Switzerland-based ruling council that oversees global competitive gymnastics.
Whitehurst, who was on the team from 1995-1997, filed her suit in Harris County District Court in Texas.
According to court filings, when Whitehurst was 15 years old, she was instructed by her coaches to seek treatment with Nassar.
“Under the guise of treatment, Nassar sexually assaulted, battered, abused, and molested [Whitehurst] by touching and rubbing her genital area and digitally penetrating her vagina without the use of gloves or lubricant and without [her] consent,” her complaint alleges.
Her lawsuit claims negligence, gross negligence, negligent supervision, negligent failure to warn or protect, negligent failure to train or educate, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud and misrepresentation, assault and battery, and other charges.
Whitehurst also joined six other victims in a federal suit filed in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Michigan, which names USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, the school’s board of trustees, and multiple current and former employees at the school, including former gymnastics coach Kathie Klages and recently arrested former College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel.
That 142-page lawsuit, also filed Wednesday, alleges women ranging from age 14 to age 41 were sexually molested by Nassar while he was working as the USA Gymnastics doctor and as a Michigan State University team physician. The lawsuit alleges his “treatments” involved the insertion of “his bare, ungloved and unlubricated hand into the vagina” or touching “the vaginal area and bare breasts” of a number of the victims.
Most of the plaintiffs named in the suit “are or were young athletes participating in a variety of sports, including gymnastics, dance, swimming, figure skating, track and field, field hockey, basketball, rowing, softball, and soccer,” according to the complaint. “For over 20 years, [Nassar] had unfettered access to young female athletes through the Sports Medicine Clinic at MSU, and through his involvement with USAG and Twistars, who referred athletes to his care.”
Nassar was fired by Michigan State in September 2016.
The new plaintiffs—identified as Whitehurst, Jennifer Millington Bott, Victoria Carlson, Nicole Hameister, Jane H1 Doe, Cassidea Avery, and Emily Vincent—add their names to the more than 260 others who are suing the combined organizations for failing to prevent—or stop—Nassar’s pervasive assault of student-athletes.
The women have demanded a jury trial. None of them have previously spoken publicly about their alleged abuses.
Bott was referred to Nassar at Michigan State in 2015, where he allegedly sexually assaulted, battered, abused, and molested her in his office for his own “pleasure and self-gratification,” according to court filings. Carlson was abused by Nassar in 2012 when she was 15 years old and had a back injury, according to the complaint. Hameister was abused after she suffered an injury at the U.S. Junior Olympics in 2000, the complaint alleges. She was 16 years old at the time.
Doe, who was a student athlete on the Women’s Volleyball Team at MSU in the late 1990s, said she was “treated” by Nassar in 2000 after she suffered an injury. Avery was 14 years old when she was abused by Nassar in 2011, according to the complaint. Vincent suffered shoulder and rib injuries while competing in high school tennis and swimming, when she was referred to see Nassar in 2013. He abused her “four to five occasions,” the lawsuit claims.
“The trauma these women have suffered as a result of the sexual abuse and assaults has only been made worse by the failure of these institutions to take meaningful responsibility for what happened to these young girls on their watch,” said the women’s attorney, James White, in a Thursday press release.
The document states girls and women suffered, at his hands, “discomfort, bleeding, urinary tract infections, bacterial infections...sleep deprivation, physical illness, vomiting, severe emotional distress, shock, humiliation, fright, grief, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, loss of familial relationships, loss of enjoyment of life,” and other consequences of Nassar’s alleged abuse.
The 54-year-old Nassar was sentenced earlier this year to at least 100 years in prison on sexual-assault and child-pornography convictions. Michigan revoked his medical license following his convictions.
“Defendant Nassar used his position of trust and confidence in an abusive manner causing plaintiffs to suffer a variety of injuries including shock, humiliation, emotional distress and related physical manifestations there of, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, and loss of enjoyment of life,” the complaint alleges.
Earlier this week, Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber filed a similar lawsuit in California state court against Michigan State, USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and others.
Waco, Texas, attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel, who filed both of Wednesday’s suits, said: “Not only did they fail to protect these young women, they also have continued to engage in a culture of silence that is designed to protect their multimillion-dollar institutions and enterprises rather than protect the bodies and spirits of these young female athletes.”