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ESPN’s investigation of sexual assault and abuse claims involving young women and athletes broke through the oft-held defense that the problem was just one bad actor. Our original reporting on sexual abuse claims against former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, and how the university dealt with sex assault claims against student athletes, revealed systems that enabled abuse, and involved reports of widespread mishandling – and silencing – of women who said they suffered for years after reporting their assaults. The investigation went well beyond the actions of Nassar, and unveiled a widespread pattern of denial, inaction and information suppression. Michigan State in particular did not want this information out, but through requests for data, documents and a lengthy court battle, along with securing valuable sources, ESPN prevailed in getting much of what it had requested. At the height of the #MeToo movement, ESPN’s reporting gave a voice to the women who had been silenced, and exposed the failures of the people and institutions tasked with protecting them.
A nine-month investigation by The Indianapolis Star found 368 gymnasts had alleged sexual abuse over the last two decades at the hands of coaches and other authority figures — and revealed why: USA Gymnastics, the sport’s national governing body, failed to protect young athletes by employing a policy of dismissing many child sex abuse allegations as hearsay; declining to report allegations to police; failing to track abusive coaches who move from gym to gym; denying responsibility for oversight; and, in some cases, pressuring alleged victims to remain silent. The reporting also emboldened more than 60 women to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against a longtime USA Gymnastics team physician, who now faces state and federal charges.
The Orange County Register detailed the culture of exploitation that surrounded young female gymnasts who have fueled the sport's success since the early 1980's. Specifically, the Register investigation revealed the coach of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team had sexual relations with three young gymnasts he coached.