Trusted United States Olympic Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar has been charged with three counts of criminal sexual assault of a person under the age of 13 years old. Dr. Nassar has had decades of unfettered access to young athletes throughout his tenure as the USA Gymnastics physician, including four Olympic cycles as well as continuous exposure to U.S. National Team athletes.
While this story is shocking to some, it should not surprise anyone who represents victims of sexual abuse. Instances of sexual abuse and molestation happen every day, and almost always occur at the hands of a family member or other trusted adult. Victims of these crimes come from all walks of life. We have handled cases against all types of trusted individuals—doctors, counselors, teachers, coaches, priests, talent agents, celebrities, scout leaders, and many more. These heinous crimes do not discriminate, but there are common threads that allow them to persist.
Sexual abuse can happen anywhere there is opportunity and some disparity in power between the child and the abuser. Children left alone with a single adult are always the most vulnerable. The greater the opportunity and the greater the power differential, the more likely sexual abuse is to occur. The more prestigious the organization employing the perpetrator, the more likely it is that others will cover up the crime. This situation appears like the perfect storm—the most talented children in the hands of the most prestigious and protected organizations, in a circumstance where any parent should be able to reasonably believe his or her child is safe.
Unfortunately, sexual perpetrators exploit the trust bestowed upon them, and often times, others around them will also put their own self-interests above that of the child. In the case of this young gymnast—and any other similarly situated young athlete—we can only hope that justice is served in the criminal system, and that the civil justice system also works to hold accountable every individual and entity who could have protected against this abuse, and who was instead complicit in the concealment of the abuse.
Farmer Jaffe Partner Brad Edwards is experienced in filing lawsuits on behalf of victims of sexual abuse. If you or someone you know has been a victim of a sexual abuse, please e-mail attorney Brad [email protected] or call our law firm at (954) 524-2820.