University of Michigan abuse survivor 'didn’t think it was sexual abuse' at first

ABC News’ Linsey Davis speaks with Dwight Hicks, a survivor in the University of Michigan abuse case.
6:15 | 01/20/22

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Transcript for University of Michigan abuse survivor 'didn’t think it was sexual abuse' at first
- And we are now joined by one of the Anderson survivors included in the settlement, two-time Super Bowl champion Dwight Hicks and Jamie White, an attorney representing 78 of the survivors. Thank you both for joining us tonight. During this segment, we will be talking about sexual abuse and assault. Some viewers may find parts of the discussion triggering. So just want to give that heads up. Mr. Hicks, I'd like to start with you. You've spoken before about arriving at the University of Michigan as a hopeful 18-year-old dreaming of playing some football. How soon did the abuse start? And what impact has it had on your life? - It started early on my freshman year during a physical. I felt that something was wrong. I asked him what he was doing. And he said it was part of the physical. I asked him if all the players were doing this. And he said, yeah, and if I didn't complete the physical, I wouldn't have been able to play-- play football or go to school. - Mr. White, you represent dozens of the survivors in this settlement. What are they telling you today? Does this bring any real resolution to their years of pain and suffering? - You know, so these guys are really unique, Linsey, in the sense that, you know, some of the other cases I've worked on, there's been a lot of angst, a lot anger, a lot of hate, you know, towards the institutions. These guys started out with the conversation that we're Michigan men, and we do not want to permanently damage this university. We love this university, you know. We just want this university to be held accountable. - And Mr. Hicks, to that point that Mr. White just made, how are you? How are you coping and handling all of this in the aftermath? DWIGHT HICKS: It affects you psychological, and you really don't know until this all plays out-- and maybe you'll never know-- how much of an effect it has on me. That's happened to me. I just felt something was wrong. So I think it has affected me quite a bit. I don't know to what extent, but I feel that the healing process can now begin. - Mm-hmm. And it would make sense-- I guess I'm also curious though because for decades you and most of the other survivors had to bear this suffering in private unsure that there would ever be any kind of accountability. So what does the settlement and also the university's acknowledgment of their responsibility mean for you? - Well, I think it's-- it's a good day for all survivors of sexual abuse. I think that we have to have more legislation and make these powerful institutions accountable as far as not taking away from what had happened to us and not-- that not being the sole remedy for it. You have to hurt people and these institutions in the pocketbook. You have to levy heavy fines and laws to ensure that this doesn't happen. LINSEY DAVIS: Of course, you did go on to have an enormously successful career in the NFL, winning Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. Why was it important for you to take such a public role in this case? DWIGHT HICKS: Our-- our society tends to feel that, well, if it's a nobody, why should I care? But if it's somebody, you can bring it a voice to it. And I just feel that because I had that notoriety that I could bring a voice to it. LINSEY DAVIS: And Mr. White, what's the next step here? - Linsey, this is going to go down in history as the most prolific act against African-American men in the history of the country. It wasn't only African-American men, but the extreme vast majority of the victims were African-American in this case. The next step is to continue to the legislative process like other states in the country have done and expand the statute of limitations and create accountability on the part of people that have been reported to. LINSEY DAVIS: And so, of course, you see the settlement then as having a major impact in future cases of sexual abuse that involve large institutions such as universities and sports leagues. JAMIE WHITE: Guarantee you that other institutions are seeing what happened last night, and they're readdressing their policies and making sure that they're tight. And that's the purpose of this. LINSEY DAVIS: Mr. Hicks, last question to you because we've been talking about how quite often in the case of a Dr. Nasser or a Mr. Anderson how they're intentionally preying on young, vulnerable people who might experience some shame, was there ever a time when you and your teammates would talk about it? Or was it too uncomfortable? - Oh, you don't talk about things like this. I-- I felt embarrassed. There are so many different emotions that went through my head as far as what I had to do or what was done to me. And I just wanted to concentrate on school and playing football. And because I had that distraction, it's not until you're by yourself where you start to think about things. What happened? Why did it happen? And-- and furthermore, when we were kids I thought that it was something that had to be done. I really didn't think it was a sexual abuse until I start hearing more about it and other people talking about it. And I thought to myself, is that what happened to me? And yes, of course, that's what happened to me. But we have triggers and-- and ways to suppress things to hide the emotion to-- to be OK with it. And as I said earlier, you know, this is just the beginning of the healing process. LINSEY DAVIS: Well, we so appreciate you speaking up and sharing your story with us. Thank you so much, Dwight Hicks, Jamie White for your time. - Thank you for having us.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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