(WILX) The investigation put together by USA Gymnastics shows the number of gymnasts who have been sexually abused is probably much higher than ever expected. USA Gymnastics ordered the review last fall following a series of civil lawsuits filed against the organization and a former team doctor by a pair of gymnasts who claim the physician sexually abused them during their time on the U.S. national team.
Former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels says there's currently no written protocol for handling allegations of abuse. She says this requires a complete cultural change. I spoke with Attorney David Mittleman, who represents some of the women suing Larry Nassar for sex assault. Mittleman said that culture change begins by giving victims a voice.
He says, "There has to change with regards to how society views sexual abuse with children and up until today, and hopefully it will stop tomorrow, adults have been in denial."
The review released Tuesday by Deborah Daniels recommends that all USA Gymnastics members be required to immediately report suspected sexual misconduct to legal authorities and the U.S. Center for SafeSport. Daniels also suggested that USA Gymnastics prohibit adults from being alone with minor gymnasts "at all times." She says unrelated adults should not share or be alone in a sleeping room with gymnasts. She also recommended preventing adult members from having "out of program" contact with gymnasts through email, text or social media.
Mittleman says there have been multiple cases of USA Gymnastics members failing to tell police when an athlete reports being abused.
He says, "They found serious flaws. Uh for instance, failing to report allegations about doctor Nassar uh for over five weeks once they found out, according to this investigation. But as I said Michigan State administrators knew over two and half years before they've said anything about it. And they still haven't said they are sorry"
Mittleman told us the way we are going to change this culture is by having parents involved and by also giving the victims a voice. Daniels says USA Gymnastics "inadvertently suppressed" reporting of abuse because of several factors, including that athletes are taught to follow instructions and obey coaches and trainers.