In a courtroom in Lansing, Michigan, on Tuesday, women molested by former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar spoke to the ways his actions have weighed on them over the years.
Nassar has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct in two counties in Michigan and has also already been sentenced to 60 years for child pornography charges. Tuesday was the first of what is expected to be several days of testimony from almost 100 victims and parents as part of Nassar’s sentencing. Nassar, who was the team doctor for USA Gymnastics for around two decades, would digitally penetrate young gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment, according to his victims. Others testified he masturbated in front of them and touched them with his genitals.
The first to speak Tuesday, a woman named Kyle Stephens, knew Nassar not as a gymnast but as a family friend. She testified that Nassar’s abuse, which first occurred when she was 6 years old, caused her to experience depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, and that she would often lie on the floor for hours, pulling out her hair and thinking of her gun. She testified that when her parents refused to believe her, it destroyed her relationship with them, and that her father’s realization of the truth contributed to his suicide.
When she addressed Nassar directly, she spoke with anger. “You used my body for six years for your own sexual gratification. That is unforgivable,” she said. “I testify to let the world know that you are a repulsive liar, and that those treatments were pathetically veiled sexual abuse.”
“Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don’t stay little forever,” she said. “They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”
The second to testify, a 17-year-old high schooler, went to Nassar for help after a rib injury. “He was a trusted doctor and what he did to me didn’t make sense in my child’s mind,” she said. “My dream of becoming a sports medicine doctor ended that day, along with my happy and trusting self. He had broken me.”
She described years of crippling anxiety, an intense fear of men’s hands, paralyzing flashbacks, and an inability to have normal interactions with boys her age. “For the rest of my life I’m going to have to heal,” she said. “He is a predator and he cannot be stopped unless he is behind bars for the rest of his life.”
The third to speak, Donna Markham, spoke on behalf of her daughter, Chelsea, who died by suicide in 2009 when she was 23. “It all started with him,” she said.
Another 17-year-old told the judge that there were days “this horrifying experience fills my brain and I can’t think about anything else,” according to CBS News.
The stories continued, as 10 more women took to the stand. One of them, Olivia Cowan, accused Michigan State and USA Gymnastics of allowing the abuse to happen. Nassar worked as an associate professor at Michigan State since 1997 and continued to see patients there for more than a year while he was under criminal investigation. “It sickens me that for 16 months, you allowed children to see Larry Nassar under your guidance,” she said in an address to the university’s president and board of trustees, according to Sports Illustrated.
The judge is expected to rule on Nassar’s sentence Friday. The state is seeking a sentence of at least 40 years, to be added to his 60 years for crimes related to child pornography.
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