Three former members of the U.S. gymnastics team, all of whom achieved champion status as teenagers, broke their silence about the sexual abuse they say they suffered at the hands of a man they placed all their trust in: the team doctor. Their allegations are shocking and disturbing and, according to the lawyer representing them, could have been prevented.
Jessica Howard, Jeanette Antolin and Jamie Dantzscher came forward and spoke out about their ordeals for the first time in an episode of 60 Minutes on Sunday night. The women, all teenagers when they were competing on the U.S. national team and came down with injuries from the grueling training regimens, said they each spent time at the famed Karolyi Ranch outside of Houston. The ranch was run by Bela and Martha Karolyi, the gymnastics legends, and was the premiere place for world-class gymnasts to train. The doctor providing medical treatment there was Larry Nassar. Each of the women detailed the abuse Nassar allegedly subjected them to, and their stories are all very similar.
“He would put his fingers inside of me and move my leg around. He would tell me I was going to feel a pop. And that that would put my hips back and help my back pain,” Jamie Dantzscher recalled, saying she was about 13 or 14 years old when the abuse first occurred. Dantzscher said the abuse continued until she was 18, when she competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“He started massaging me. And — he had asked me not to wear any underwear,” Jessica Howard said. “And then he just continued to go into more and more intimate places.”
Jeanette Antolin said she was almost always alone with Nassar for treatment sessions, which were sometimes conducted in her bedroom at the ranch. Like Dantzscher and Howard, Antolin said she never thought about reporting Nassar, even though she felt like something might be wrong with the way she was being handled. “It was treatment,” Antolin replied when asked why she didn’t report Nassar at the time. “You don’t complain about treatment.”
John Manly, the California lawyer representing the women in the lawsuit against U.S. gymnastics, said Nassar was able to exploit a brutally competitive culture, where the girls were so fearful of failing as gymnasts they thought of nothing else. Nassar presented himself as the nice guy amid the storm of psychological storm at the ranch.
“All the girls liked Larry,” Antolin recalled.
“He was, like, my buddy. He was on my side,” Dantzscher added.
Manly said Nassar “Gave them candy. He gave them encouragement. He acted like he cared about them. No one else there gave that impression.”
Nassar is currently being held without bail in Michigan after being indicted on federal child pornography charges and criminal sexual conduct involving the daughter of a family friend. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges and, through his attorney, has defended his treatment methods as legitimate. Physicians sometimes use a form of therapy for back and hip pain where the inside the vagina is massaged, but it is a rarely-used measure and always involves the use of a glove. And in the case of a minor, a chaperone is required to be in the room at the time of the procedure — something that never happened during the sessions the former gymnasts had with Nassar.
Authorities are investigating dozens more accusations against Nasser, some as recent as the last two years and others dating back decades. Manly, the lawyer representing the women featured in the 60 Minutes story and others, said about 60 women have come forward — one who was 9 at the time of the alleged abuse — and he believes the total number of victims is more than 100.
And the current case against U.S. gymnastics is hardly the first time accusations of sexual misconduct have been leveled against someone associated with the organization. Meanwhile, the women who spoke out, decades later, say they are still coming to terms with the violation and betrayal of trust. Watch the full segment from 60 Minutes below.
Read the full story at CBS News.