Eighty-nine victims of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse came forward in the first week of his sentencing hearing to testify against the former US Gymnastics national team doctor who is accused of sexual crimes against, at least, 140 women gymnasts under his care.
It appears that the 54-year-old disgraced doctor, who was sentenced to sixty years federal imprisonment last month in a separate case involving child abuse imagery, will spend the rest of his life and, perhaps, another lifetime – or two – behind bars, once he is sentenced in the other cases he is involved in.
While sentencing the monster, U.S. district judge Janet Neff said she was following the government’s recommendation that he “should never again have access to children.”
She also said that Nassar’s federal sentence will start after he has completed his sentences for sexual assault, which will be pronounced next week after the remainder of the accusers have finished testifying in the ongoing hearing.
After the allegations against the despicable doctor became public in September 2016, more than 140 women, including Olympic gold medalists McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman as well as other US gymnasts have bravely come forward to openly speak about their harrowing ordeals.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights of the four days of the first week of Nassar’s hearing in which 89 gymnasts delivered impact statements.
Tuesday (Jan. 16): Day One
The first victim to confront her tormentor on day one of the hearing was Kyle Stephens who delivered an emotionally charged impact statement.
The formerly anonymous Stephens, who was known simply as “Victim ZA” until she revealed herself on Tuesday, said that she had been sexually violated by Nassar for six years, starting when she was only six years old.
“You used my body for six years for your own sexual gratification. That is unforgivable.”
Stephens said that the former team doctor convinced her parents that her accusations were not true, and when her father finally did believe her, he committed suicide.
“After my parents confronted you, they brought you back to my house to speak with me. Sitting on my living room couch I listened to you tell me that no one should ever do that, and if they do, you should tell someone,” she said. “Well Larry, I’m here. Not to tell someone, but to tell everyone.”
“You convinced my parents that you didn’t pull my feet into your lap, unzip your pants, and rub your erect penis against my bare skin. But I still flinch when my feet are near someone’s lap,” Stephens said.
“I have been coming for you for a long time. I’ve told counselors your name in hopes they would report you. I’ve told your name to Child Protective Services twice. I gave a testament to get your medical license revoked. You were first arrested on my charges. And now as the only nonmedical victim to come forward, I testify to let the world know you are a repulsive liar.”
Throughout her delivery, the disgraced doctor hid his face and sobbed.
Here’s the video clip of her impact statement
Another victim of the disgusting doctor’s sexual advances, Chelsea Markham, is not alive to tell her story but her mother Donna Markham did appear in court on her behalf on Tuesday.
The tearful mother told the court that her daughter brought to her notice when she was twelve, that Nasser had “put his fingers in me and they weren’t gloved.”
The trauma drove Chelsea to a life of drugs until she ended her life at the age of twenty-three.
“In 2009, she took her own life because she couldn’t deal with the pain anymore,” said the weeping mother. “She was twenty-three years old. She would have been thirty-three now,” she added.
“Every day I miss her. Every day. And it all started with him. It all started with him, and it just became worse as the years went by until she just couldn’t deal with it anymore,” Markham said.
Donna Markham, with a picture of her daughter Chelsea Markham behind her. Donna Markham became visibly emotional throughout her statement. pic.twitter.com/TwBwlFy1yu
— Riley P. Murdock (@RiMurdock) January 16, 2018
In all, twenty-nine impact statements were read out in front of Judge Rosemarie Aquilina on Tuesday, with a majority of the victims recommending the maximum sentence to the judge.
While most of them chose to be identified, others chose anonymity.
Some of the victims had their statements read out by loved ones or others, while the rest faced the man in person and delivered their impact statement.
All through the hearing, Nassar avoided eye contact with the victims or their representatives.
Wednesday (Jan. 17): Day Two
Day two was no less emotional, as more victims came forward to talk about how Nassar’s 20-year history of abusing young athletes at Michigan State University’s Sports Medicine Clinic, and during the course of his work with USA Gymnastics, had impacted their lives and about the sufferings and trauma he had caused over the years.
Not only did the victims speak out but their supporters also got a chance to address the court.
The day’s court proceedings began with national team member Maggie Nichol’s mother reading her daughter’s impact statement. She also had a few powerful words of her own to deliver.
Here’s the video clip of what she said.
Amanda Thomashow, who had gone to see Nassar at the MSU Sports Medicine Clinic in 2014 for a hip injury, was subjected to a breast and vaginal massage, which Nassar continued with even after she told him to stop, she claims in her lawsuit. The lawsuit also claims that she had to forcibly remove his hands from her body and she noticed he had an erection
While Nassar was put under suspension following her complaint to MSU, the Title IX investigation was “brief and sloppy,” resulting in Nassar’s reinstatement within three months after his colleagues at the clinic vouched for him.
“When Larry Nassar assaulted me and MSU covered for him, it changed the trajectory of my life,” she said on Wednesday. “Someday I will be whole again,” she said with conviction.
Addressing Nassar she said: “You didn’t realize that you were building an army of survivors, an army of female warriors.”
Victim Gwen Anderson, who is a middle school teacher said that she was at first reluctant to reveal her name as she didn’t want her to students to see her as a victim.
“I didn’t want to go public because I was scared that my students would see me at my weakest moments, that they’d see me as a victim,” she said.
“Then I realized, this moment is not my weakest moment. This is my moment of strength. I want my (sons) to see me stand up for what is right, and for my students to see what I always encourage them to do, which is to be the change we want to see in the world.”
On seeing Nassar hiding his face as a tearful Anderson was reading her statement, former gymnastics coach Thomas Brennan could not control himself and erupted in a fit of rage.
“Look at her!” he yelled. “For the record, go to hell,” he said and proceeded towards his seat along with Anderson, whom he had come to support.
He was then called back by Judge Aquilinia who offered him a chance to speak.
“I’m allowing you an opportunity. You seem to have a few things you would like to say that I think the world probably wants to hear. So do I,” said the Judge.
Making the most of the opportunity granted, Brennan delivered a powerful impact statement of his own.
“I have a different relationship with Larry from the standpoint that I was a coach for many years. I’m also an exercise physiologist,” revealed Brennan.
“When I graduated from grad school, he was an advisor of mine, he’s been a mentor of mine. I’ve done clinics with him for years in the past. And I’ve probably sent well over 100 kids to him over the years. So the guilt I feel for that is hard to fathom,” said the former coach.
“So, he didn’t only deceive these girls, which is honest to god, that’s the worst of the worst, is what he did to these girls, so they have the voice. But what you did to everybody else who trusted you and sent girls your way is disgusting. Reprehensible. Unforgivable. That’s all I’ve got to say,” concluded Brennan.
Watch Thomas Brennan’s speech here.
Another victim of the deranged doctor, Madeline Jones, reminded Nassar how – blocked from her mother’s view – he had sexually abused her while talking to her mother about his religious beliefs.
“Remember that?” she asked Nassar.
Thursday (Jan. 18): Day Three
One of Nassar’s early victims when she joined the national team at the age of 12, Olympic bronze medallist Jamie Dantzscher was the first to deliver her impact statement on Thursday.
She refrained from talking about her abuse to her parents or anyone else at the time because she was made to believe that Nassar could be trusted, and also because he pretended to be a “good cop” against the rough behavior of her coaches.
“You saw all the physical and emotional abuse and you pretended to be our side,” she said. “But instead of protecting us and reporting the abuse, you used your power to abuse us as well.”
“I remember your obnoxious laugh and how you would slurp the drool off your lip,” recalled the Bronze-medalist with disgust. “I don’t see you laughing now.”
She said she was not going to say everything Nassar did to her because he was a “sick bastard” and would “enjoy hearing it.”
Speaking about the mental and physical toll his actions took on her, she said: “I struggled with anorexia, bulimia, and depression so severe that I was hospitalized for attempting suicide.”
She vented out by saying, “How f***ing dare you say “sorry” for all you’ve done. We all see through your bulls*** now. You’re a pathetic monster who’s only sorry he got caught.”
Addressing the judge earlier she had said that when she first went public about the abuse in 2016, she was “attacked on social media” and instead of believing her people believed Nassar.
“They called me a liar. A whore. Accused me of making this up to get attention,” she said.
“But instead of backing down, I continued to speak my truth,” Dantzscher said. “I found out I wasn’t alone. I later learned he did this for many years to many, many girls, and their stories were shockingly similar to mine.”
Gold medallist McKayla Maroney was not present at the hearing and her statement was read out by Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis.
In addition to what she wrote about her ordeal, Maroney made it a point to mention that a lot of all the abuse that happened could have been prevented if the concerned people had not allowed it to continue for as long as it did.
“A simple fact is this. If Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee had paid attention to any of the red flags in Larry Nassar’s behavior I never would have met him, I never would have been “treated” by him, and I never would have been abused by him,” wrote Maroney.
Appealing for accountability she wrote that the “leadership of Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee should be held “accountable for allowing and in some cases enabling his crimes,” adding that “our silence has given the wrong people power for too long, and it’s time to take our power back.”
“It all started when I was 13 or 14 years old, at one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas, and it didn’t end until I left the sport,” Povilaitis read from the champion gymnast’s written statement.
“It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was “treated.” It happened in London before my team and I won the Gold medal, and it happened before I won my Silver Medal,” Maroney’s statement said.
“For me, the scariest night of my life happened when I was 15 years old. I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo,” the statement continued. “He’d given me a sleeping pill for the flight, and the next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a “treatment.” I thought I was going to die that night.”
Friday (Jan. 19): Day Four
The last business day of the first week of the sentencing saw the surprise entry of six-time Olympic gold medallist Aly Raisman along with Fierce Five teammate Jordyn Wieber just before the start of proceedings.
“I am here to face you, Larry, so you can see I’ve regained my strength,” she said when it was time for her to speak to her tormentor. “That I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor.”
Raisman, who was not expected to be there as she had earlier announced that her statement would be made via a DA office representative, said:
“I didn’t think I would be here today,” adding that initially, she was “scared and nervous” but after having watched “the other brave survivors” she realized she should be there in person.
Without going into any details, she said that the abuse started when they were in Australia and that she was led to believe that the doctor’s actions were part of her treatment.
“I’m no longer that little girl you met in Australia, where you first began grooming and manipulating me,” said a confident Raisman.
“You never healed me. You took advantage of our passions and our dreams,” she said.
“Imagine feeling like you have no power, and no voice. Well you know what Larry, I have my power and my voice, and I will use them.”
Referring to a letter Nassar wrote to the judge earlier in the Week, in which he had complained that his mental well-being was being affected by all the impact statements the judge was allowing, she said:
“You are pathetic to think that anyone would have any sympathy for you. You think this is hard for you? Imagine how all of us feel.”
After Raisman was done, Judge Aquilina complimented her, saying she was an “unstoppable force.”
“You are unstoppable. You are part of an unstoppable growing force, an unstoppable, strong, loud voice. The effects of your voice are far-reaching. It’s not just in this courtroom, but worldwide,” said the judge.
Jordyn Wieber said in her impact statement that the most difficult thing she ever had to do was “process” that she was a “victim of Larry Nassar.”
“It has caused me to feel shame and confusion,” she said.
Speaking about how naive she was to have been misled by Nassar, she said:
“I have spent months trying to think back on my experience and wonder how I didn’t know what was happening to me and how I became so brainwashed by Larry Nassar and everyone at USA Gymnastics.”
Like many before her, Wieber also called for accountability of all those who turn a blind eye to all that was happening around them.
“Larry Nassar is accountable. USA Gymnastics is accountable. The U.S. Olympic Committee is accountable,” she stressed.
“My teammates and friends have been through enough and now it’s time for change. The current gymnasts should not have to live in anxiety and fear as I did.”
The youngest victim to make a statement at the sentencing was 15-year-old Chelsea who was sexually molested by the dirty doctor three years ago.
“It’s so sickening that he did that to me,” said young Chelsea.
Calling him a “monster” she said that because of Nassar she had almost lost her interest in gymnastics for good.
“This is all your fault, we wouldn’t be here in the first place if it wasn’t for you,” said Chelsea.
“I am a survivor. Here I am today, facing my abuser. I’m finally being heard. I’m no longer hiding my story,” she said before she finished, appealing to Judge Aquilina for maximum punishment for Nassar.
At the end of the first week, eighty-nine victims had read their impact statements, themselves or through a loved one or an official from the DA’s office.
More victims are due to speak on Monday and, expectedly, by Tuesday the judge should be able to pronounce the sentence.