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Alleged victim of Larry Nassar says she told gymnastics coach about sexual assault

MASON, Mich. -- A woman who has accused former Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar of sexually assaulting her added a new name to the list of authority figures who allegedly ignored complaints about Nassar.

Testifying in a Michigan district court Friday morning, Rachael Denhollander, 32, described for almost two hours an escalating series of sexual assaults that occurred when she was 15 years old at the hands of Nassar, a former team doctor for Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.

Denhollander became one of the first women to publicly accuse Nassar of assault in August through a story in the Indianapolis Star. On Friday, she said she tried to tell her youth gymnastics coach, Treva Alofs, in 2004 about the assaults.

"I felt at that point I had to try to get someone to believe me," Denhollander said. "... She cautioned me against any speaking any further because she was concerned about the ramifications because the gym owners were friends with Larry Nassar."

Nassar, 53, has been charged with more than a dozen counts of first-degree criminal sexual assault, among other crimes. Friday's testimony came at the start of a preliminary hearing for 15 of those charges in Michigan's 55th District Court to determine whether there is enough evidence for a trial to proceed.

Denhollander accused Nassar of putting his fingers inside her vagina on five occasions when she went to his office on Michigan State's campus, seeking treatment for back injuries sustained while training as a gymnast. More than 100 women have lodged criminal complaints with police, and many have made similar claims. More than 90 women are suing Nassar for assault and suing several others from Michigan State and the gymnastics community for negligence.

Nassar and his attorneys have denied any wrongdoing, saying the treatment he administered was medically legitimate. Nassar attorney Shannon Smith questioned Denhollander's motivation in coming forward in 2016 and joining a civil lawsuit earlier this year against Nassar and the university.

"There are things that are more important than what I want," Denhollander replied. "Stopping a child predator is one of them."

Denhollander testified that Nassar penetrated her on her first visit to the doctor while kneeling beside her as she stood in his office. In later appointments, she said he assaulted her in different ways for 20 to 30 minutes at a time with one hand while massaging her back with the other. She stopped seeking treatment for the back injury after her fifth appointment when Nassar cupped and massaged her breast, she said.

She said Nassar had a visible erection and that his face was flush during the fifth appointment. Denhollander said her mother was in the room for all five appointments. She said Nassar never informed her or her mother that he was going to penetrate her, never recorded that type of treatment in her medical records and never wore a glove during treatment.

Denhollander said she started working as a coach at a gym in Kalamazoo, Michigan -- her hometown -- a little more than a year later. Alofs, the head coach at the gym, referred another young gymnast to Nassar in 2004, which prompted Denhollander to tell Alofs about her experience.

According to Denhollander, Alofs and her husband, a police officer, looked to see if Nassar had any criminal history. When they found nothing, Alofs opted not to tell anyone else about the alleged assault. Denhollander said Alofs sent the other gymnast to see Nassar without informing the family about the accusations.

Other Nassar accusers have claimed that several authority figures -- coaches and other employees at Michigan State and USA Gymnastics -- downplayed or ignored complaints about Nassar.

Alofs -- who now works at a gym in Florida, according to a LinkedIn account -- did not respond to a phone call Friday afternoon.

Denhollander said a physician's assistant in 2003 recommended she report Nassar to state regulators but that she didn't follow through.

"I was confident I wouldn't be believed. At that age I wasn't ready for this," said Denhollander, who is now a lawyer.

Denhollander also detailed the long-term effects she attributes to her experience with Nassar. She said she developed trust and physical contact issues and continues to have nightmares about the alleged abuse. She said she finds it difficult to see male physicians and to bring her children to male physicians.

"There's not an area of my life that's not affected by what Larry Nassar chose to do," she said. "It destroyed my ability to trust. It destroyed my ability to see physical contact as good."

Denhollander was the first of three women to testify in the preliminary hearing Friday. Four more are scheduled to testify in the coming month before the judge will decide whether there is enough reason to send the case to trial.

Nassar is already scheduled to stand trial for three separate counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He has also been charged with two counts of possessing child pornography and has been in federal custody since December.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.