Also on Wednesday, U.S.A. Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body, announced the creation of a fund intended to cover the cost of counseling services for gymnasts who have been sexually abused.
The fund, established with the nonprofit National Gymnastics Foundation, will be administered by a third party and overseen by a five-person committee, U.S.A.G. said in a statement. The committee will include one gymnast; one member of the foundation’s board; one member at large; and “two independent individuals, one of whom is an expert on counseling services for abuse survivors.”
“While we can never fully understand how profoundly abusers impact the lives of their survivors, we want to provide financial support to make sure our gymnasts have access to the counseling and mental health services they need,” Kerry Perry, the U.S.A.G. president, said in the statement.
Decades of sexual abuse of American gymnasts were revealed publicly in 2016, when The Indianapolis Star published a series of investigative reports. Two former gymnasts — one of them, Rachael Denhollander, quoted by name — described molestation by Larry Nassar, the longtime team doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics. And beyond Dr. Nassar, U.S.A.G. was found to have systematically failed to report child abuse by coaches. (A bill that Congress passed overwhelmingly last month in response to the scandal requires officials who suspect abuse of amateur athletes to report it within 24 hours.)
Dr. Nassar, 54, was stripped of his medical license and sentenced to decades in prison in three separate cases. But it was the testimony of more than 150 of his victims that finally put a national spotlight on his abuse and the systemic failings by various organizations that allowed it to continue for decades, despite women’s reports along the way.
One after another, former gymnasts described depression, guilt and fear. Many said they had tried to kill themselves, or considered doing so. Mattie Larson, a member of the American team at the 2010 World Championships, recalled deliberately hitting her head against a bathtub to avoid going to a U.S.A. Gymnastics camp at Bela and Martha Karolyi’s ranch in Texas. McKayla Maroney, a gold medalist at the 2012 Olympics, said Dr. Nassar had caused emotional scars “that may never go away.”
In an impact statement filed in an earlier case, Ms. Maroney’s mother, Erin, wrote, “At times, I was unsure whether I would open her bedroom door and find her dead.”
Before U.S.A.G. announced its fund on Wednesday, informal efforts had sprung up to raise money for survivors’ psychological treatment. A GoFundMe campaign started by Paul Ziert, the publisher of International Gymnast magazine, has raised more than $26,000.
U.S.A.G. said it would provide more information about its fund, and how athletes can apply for aid, “in the coming days.”
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