Ac­cu­sa­tions against Nas­sar earn for­mer gym­nast award

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - CINDY BOREN

Rachael Den­hol­lan­der, who sent a mes­sage heard by hun­dreds of other women when she re­fused to re­main silent about sex­ual abuse com­mit­ted by for­mer USA Gym­nas­tics and Michi­gan State doc­tor Larry Nas­sar, was pre­sented with Sports Il­lus­trated’s “In­spi­ra­tion of the Year” award. And she was in­tro­duced by Chris­tine Blasey Ford, who also sent a mes­sage with her own al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault.

“In step­ping for­ward, you took a huge risk and you gal­va­nized fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to come for­ward, even when the odds are seem­ingly stacked against them,” Ford said in a video that was ad­dressed to Den­hol­lan­der. “The last­ing les­son is that we all have the power to cre­ate real change, and we can­not al­low our­selves to be de­fined by the acts of others.”

Ford al­leged dur­ing U.S. Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings on the nom­i­na­tion of Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh that she was sex­u­ally as­saulted by him more than 30 years ago.

Den­hol­lan­der launched a #MeToo move­ment in the Olympic sport that re­sulted in the con­vic­tion of Nas­sar. He’s serv­ing a 60-year term for fed­eral child pornog­ra­phy crimes and a 40- to 175-year sen­tence for as­sault­ing nine girls and women in Michi­gan.

Den­hol­lan­der, a lawyer and a mother of three, filed suit against Nas­sar in fed­eral court, with more than 25 for­mer gym­nasts join­ing in. More than 300 women say they were sex­u­ally as­saulted by Nas­sar.

Ear­lier this week, an in­de­pen­dent study con­cluded that, in the 14 months af­ter two top ex­ec­u­tives at the U.S. Olympic Com­mit­tee learned in July 2015 that Nas­sar was sus­pected of sex­ual abuse, they failed to en­sure he no longer worked with chil­dren, didn’t in­form any­one at the or­ga­ni­za­tion about the al­le­ga­tions, and deleted emails men­tion­ing Nas­sar by name.

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