USA elite gymnasts gave devastating testimony at a Senate Hearing about former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s abuse and they were failed by the system, including gross mishandling by the FBI in their 2015 investigation.
Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman told the Senate judiciary committee how they were failed by the system meant to protect victims against sexual assailants.
In 2015, USA Gymnastics officials reported to the FBI allegations against Nassar for sexual abuse. More than 150 women and girls came forward to report abuse by Nassar. The allegations said that Nassar used the guise of medical treatments in order to assault them. Nassar was convicted and sentenced to 175 years in prison.
But now eyes have turned to the FBI’s handling of the horrific case. The four elite gymnasts told the Senate that they were failed by the FBI.
The Senate hearing is meant to investigate the shortcomings of organizations, including the FBI, in their cases against Nassar — shortcomings that ultimately led to the abuse of more gymnasts. An estimated 70 young female athletes were abused by Nassar in the time the FBI failed to act.
Simone Biles told Congress that the FBI, as well as USA Gymnastics officials, turned blind eyes to the abuse. In her testimony, Biles emphasized how it was not just Nassar to blame for the abuse, but the entire infrastructure that enabled and perpetuated Nassar’s abuse.
Maroney said she had to relive her abuse in detail on the phone to an FBI agent to file the report, to which the agent merely responded “Is that all?” The agent then failed to report the abuse for a whopping 17 months, nearly a full year and a half after Maroney’s allegations. She said furthermore that when the report was finally filed, it included “entirely false claims” about what she had said.
Raisman echoed a similar experience, saying the agents made her feel like her abuse “didn’t count.” It took 14 months after she first reported her allegations until she finally was contacted to speak to the FBI. She also said that the lapse in the FBI’s filing of the reports allowed children to be served up to a pedophile “on a silver platter.”
Nichols said the conduct of the agency was unacceptable, disgusting and shameful.
The testimonies made clear that many were aware of the allegations against Nassar, including within gymnastics, as well as in federal law enforcement. Yet none of them acted to stop him.
So far, no one at the FBI has been prosecuted for their gross mishandling of the case. One agent was fired by the bureau for the failings over the case, and another retired quietly in 2018. The fact that the DOJ decided not to charge these two former agents after they were referred by the department’s inspector general for potential prosecution has enraged gymnasts as well as lawmakers.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was not the FBI director at the time of the botched report, apologized. His testimony called the actions “unacceptable,” but emphasized they were not reflective of the FBI overall. He has said that the agency has begun to implement protocols to prevent this from happening again.