Local athlete files sex abuse lawsuit against prominent doctor


Flanked by attorneys, Tiffany Lopez starts to whimper.  “I was a starter in the outfield, lettered for two years and played in 106 games in my career."

Lopez went to Michigan State University with dreams of playing softball and being an Olympian. But, her dreams were difficult because of a back injury…

“In order to keep competing, I visited Dr. Nassar regularly.”

She's talking about Dr. Larry Nassar a former sports doctor for Michigan State University.

At an Irvine news conference Lopez told reporters, “He assaulted me more than 12 times.”

Lopez is one of more than 60 women nationwide to come forward to make allegations of sexual misconduct against him. In Michigan Nassar faces state and federal charges. And, now the FBI says, at least, 37,000 images and videos of child pornography were found on the hard drives of his computers. Nasser has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

In Santa Monica, Katherine Starr says she thinks Lopez was brave to step forward. The first woman who came forward reached out to her and her organization Safe4Athletes.org.

Starr was a swimmer in the 1984 and ‘88 Olympics. Like Lopez, she started young… three years old to be exact. And, like what Lopez is claiming, she was a victim of sexual abuse. She says the abuse, for her, started when she hit her teens and success and had no one to tell. Says Starr, 

“I was in so much pain… so much pain." She says it's still there.

Starr started an organization to help athletes in such situations. She says, like what happened to her is what happens to a lot of athletes. They have a unique relationship with a coach, doctor or trainer that's like is no other. Just opening up, she says,  can be tough. “It’s embarrassing, they’re ashamed, there’s guilt. There’s a feeling like you did this to yourself… somehow." 

Starr says elite athletes are particularly vulnerable and has helped in the development of the Michigan State case since the first victim stepped forward and opened up to her. When that happened she alerted attorney John Manley. That's Lopez's lawyer.

In the Lopez lawsuit, it states that the Plaintiff was under Nassar’s direct supervision control and care which created a special confidential and fiduciary relationship between the plaintiff and Nassar. That, says Starr, is the problem for many athletes.

Lopez says, “I never told any of my teammates … never shared with any of the athletes.”

And, now she’s speaking … out loud… and legally. 

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