Hear Larry Nassar's victims in their own (powerful and brave) words
Victims of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor, gave their statements at his seven-day sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan. Recalling horrific memories, the more than 150 women or their advocates shared the trauma their experiences with Nassar had caused, but they also revealed themselves to be powerful survivors who refused to be victims any longer.
It has been an overwhelming display of bravery and courage in the face of a terrible tragedy. Every person who spoke has a story and name worth knowing, and here are several of them, in their own words.
"We are going to move forward, we are going to live our best lives, because we are fighters and we are strong. We overcome impossible odds, because that's what we were trained to do, because that's what we know how to do -- because we are gymnasts.
"I seriously struggled with the decision to allow myself to be recorded and shown in public because I was scared that my students would see me at my weakest moment. They would see me as a victim. But I've come to realize that this moment is not my weakest moment, this is my moment of strength. This is my time to close the chapter of being a victim and open my chapter of being a survivor, and that standing here today, facing the man who molested me as a child and share my story, is my time.
"I decided to let the media know my name, my face and my story because I want my two boys to see their mom stand up for what she knows is right and I want my students to see what I encourage them to do every day, which is to be the change we want to see in this world. And I want to see that this never happens to anyone again and that those responsible are held accountable."
Former Olympic gymnast
"Dr. Nassar is no doctor at all, and I'll refer to him as Larry. Late summer of 2016 was when I began to understand Larry had sexually abused me all those years and that his treatments were not legitimate medical procedures. I decided to speak up, even though at the time, I had no idea there were other victims. When I came forward in August of 2016, I was attacked on social media.
"People did not believe me. They believed him. ... They called me a liar, a whore, and even accused me of making all of this up just to get attention. ... Instead of backing down, I continue to speak my truth because I couldn't stand the thought of this happening to one of my nieces, nephews or any other child that may have crossed paths with Larry, or anyone like him.
"Every day after that, more women and young girls were coming forward. I wasn't alone. I further came to learn he had been doing this to so many young girls, over many years, despite several complaints to MSU and USAG. Their stories so shockingly similar to mine. ... Well, who do they believe now, Larry? ...
"I'm here today with all these other women, not victims, but survivors to tell you, face to face, that your days of manipulation are over. We have a voice now. We have the power now. There is no therapy, no cure and no healing for monsters like you. ...
"I will continue to heal, and I will continue to stay strong, knowing I have a bright future ahead of me. All your future holds, all you get to look forward to now, is rotting in prison for the rest of your life. And all you will ever feel now, Larry, is forever powerless. And now I can finally say that I am truly proud of myself for something I've done related to my elite gymnastics career."
"At 15, I believed that the adults at MSU surrounding Larry would do the right thing if they were aware of what Larry was doing. And I was terribly wrong. And discovering that not only could I not trust my abuser, but I could not trust the people surrounding him, has been devastating. It is part of the consequences of sexual assault and it needs to be taken seriously.
"I did not know that at the same time Larry was penetrating me, USAG was systematically burying reports of sexual assault against member coaches in a file cabinet instead of reporting them, creating a culture where predators like Larry and so many others in the organization, up to the highest-level coaches, were able to sexually abuse children, including our Olympians, without any fear of being caught. I did not know, that contrary to my belief, the elite gymnasts whose pictures were plastered on Larry's wall, were far from protected. USAG, rather than supervising Larry, was allowing him to treat these girls in their own beds, without even having a medical license in Texas.
"I did not know any of these things, and so as Larry was abusing me each time, I assured myself it must be fine because I thought I could trust the adults around me. ...
"How much is a little girl worth? How much is a young woman worth? Larry is a hardened and determined sexual predator. I know this firsthand. At age 15, when I suffered from chronic back pain, Larry sexually assaulted me repeatedly under the guise of medical treatment for nearly a year.
"He did this with my own mother in the room, carefully and perfectly obstructing her view so she would not know what he was doing. His ability to gain my trust, and the trust of my parents, his grooming and carefully calculated brazen sexual assault was the result of deliberate, premeditated and mythological patterns of abuse. Patterns that were rehearsed long before I walked through Larry's exam room door and were continued to be perpetrated, I believe, on a daily basis for 16 more years until I filed the police report."
Former national team gymnast
"All I wanted to do as a kid was go to the Olympics. I was at the height of my career at 19, and the Olympics were just one year away, and I just couldn't take any more of the abuse. I was broken. Larry, my coaches, and USA Gymnastics turned the sport I fell in love with as a kid into my personal living hell ...
"Around the age of 15 or 16, I would start getting panic attacks before leaving to go to the ranch. One time, I was so desperate not to go, I thought faking an injury was the only way out.
"I was taking a bath when I decided to push the bath mat aside, splash tiles and get on the floor and bang my head against the tub hard enough to get a bump so it seemed like I slipped. My parents immediately took me to the hospital because they thought I had a concussion. I was willing to physically hurt myself to get out of the abuse that I received at the ranch.
"When I attended the next camp, Marta Karolyi approached me and said, 'You know what? Kim Zmeskal fell out of the top bunk in the cabin and she didn't miss practice the next day.' She did not say another word to me for the rest of the camp. It makes me so sad to think about how desperate I was at that time, feeling as if that was the only way I could ensure not having to go to camp."
Tiffany Thomas Lopez
Former Michigan State softball player
"You and your actions have walked with me every step of the way since leaving Michigan State University. Such a beautiful campus, tarnished with your touch. Not only did you take away an amazing opportunity that I had playing for a Division I college, I was also selected to play on the 1999 USA Junior National softball team in Taipei, Taiwan.
"As exciting of an experience as it was, my most memorable moment was sitting around a box of pizza with teammates debating if I should ask them if they had ever experienced treatment like I had. Your actions not only consumed my thoughts but distracted me from moments I can never live again. ...
"Since you decided to tell the truth about sexually assaulting an army of young women, I'm choosing to stand tall with them and fight back. The army you chose in the late '90s to silence me, to dismiss me and my attempt at speaking the truth will not prevail over the army you created when violating us. We seek justice, we deserve justice and we will have it."
Former Olympic gymnast
Maroney did not attend in person, and her statement was read aloud by Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis.
"Ever since I went public with my story, I have been inspired and uplifted by the love and support of my former teammates, fans and many other good people. People should know that sexual abuse of children is not just happening in Hollywood, in the media or in the halls of Congress. This is happening everywhere. Wherever there is a position of power, there seems to be potential for abuse.
"I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things I had to endure to get there were unnecessary and disgusting. I was deeply saddened by the stories of my fellow Olympic teammates that suffered as I did at the hands of Larry Nassar. More than 150 women and girls had to say, '#MeToo' to Nassar's sexual assaults, and hundreds more were victimized to create the pornographic images that fueled his evil desires.
"A question that has been asked over and over is: How could have Larry Nassar been allowed to assault so many women and girls for more than two decades? The answer to that question lies in the failure of not one, but three major institutions to stop him -- Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee. ...
"A simple fact is this: If Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. 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. ...
"Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long, and it's time to take our power back."
Emma Ann Miller
Fifteen-year-old former patient
"Instead of getting up at your sentencing, giving some hollow, insincere apology, you could outline all the times -- for me, for us -- that MSU, Twistars and USAG should have stopped you. ... Do the right thing for us. Be honest, try and help us. Tell us who knew what and when.
"Tell us how and when there were opportunities to stop you. Tell us about the telltale signs that others at MSU, Twistars and USAG should have seen but didn't. In one of your last public acts, actually help someone. ...
"Please don't waste your elocution on your grief, your regret or any other emotion. Don't tell us how you and God have made amends or how you are different. You need to confess the facts. ...
"I am more than how he treated me. I am not letting him take any more time away from me -- no more time at appointments, no more time being misled and no more time being manipulated. ...
"Are you listening, MSU? I can't hear you. Are you listening? My name is Emma Ann Miller and I'm 15 years old and I'm not afraid of you, nor will I ever be. At 15, I shouldn't know the inside of a courtroom, but I'm going to become real comfortable in one. So should you.
"See, MSU: Sometimes circumstances determine our fate, and sometimes we determine the circumstance. I, like all of those that have spoken or will speak, didn't choose this circumstance to have the right to be standing in front of this podium today. Nassar made that choice for us -- your 20-year child-molesting employee. This is a burden at 15 I shouldn't have to bear. But believe me, MSU, bear I will.
"As Nassar's story fades into a federal prison cell for the rest of his life, my story, our story, mine and yours is going to be titled, 'Miller vs. MSU.' I know you write books, your honor, what do you think of 'Chapter 1: Don't Piss Off 150 Women That You Have Sexually Assaulted for 20 Years'?"
Mother of former national team gymnast Maggie Nichols
Maggie did not attend in person, but her mother read her statement to the court and then gave her own remarks.
"A real doctor, as I said before, helps heal. He doesn't hurt. You actually are not a real doctor. You're not a doctor at all. You're a serial child molester -- a pedophile. ...
"My daughter was at the Olympic training center one week a month for years. We sent a child across the country to train, to try and make the USA team and represent our country. A child. And she was not protected whatsoever. Multiple people failed her. ... Shame on MSU, USAG and the United States Olympic Committee for this gross, inexcusable negligence, for allowing this pedophile to flourish for this long and for all these victims to be abused.
"They, and every one of the people who enabled this, are responsible for this. It wasn't just Larry, it was all the people. Including USA Gymnastics ... they are accountable. And I don't want to hear any more statements from anybody else -- 'We're doing this, and we're doing that. We have a safer place now.' It's too late now. That's fine.
"We need to make a safer place, but all the people at USAG and MSU and the United States Olympic Committee who covered it up and allowed this negligence and abuse to happen to children are responsible, and they have to take responsibility for it."
Former Olympic gymnast
"Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing. The tables have turned, Larry. We are here, we have our voices, and we are not going anywhere.
"And now, Larry, it's your turn to listen to me. There's no map that shows you the pathway to healing. Realizing you're a survivor of sexual abuse is really hard to put into words. I cannot adequately capture the level of disgust I feel when I think about how this happened. ...
"I am here to face you, Larry, so you can see I regained my strength, that I'm no longer a victim, I'm a survivor. I am no longer that little girl you met in Australia, where you first began grooming and manipulating. As for your letter yesterday, you are pathetic to think anyone would have any sympathy for you. You think this is hard for you? Imagine how all of us feel. Imagine how it feels to be an innocent teenager in a foreign country hearing a knock on the door and it's you. I don't want you to be there, but I don't have a choice. Treatments with you were mandatory, and you took advantage of that. ...
"Imagine feeling like you have no power and no voice. Well, you know what, Larry, I have both power and voice, and I am only beginning to just use them. All these brave women have power, and we will use our voices to make sure you get what you deserve -- a life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors. ...
"You already know you're going away to a place where you won't be able to hurt anybody ever again, but I am here to tell you that I will not rest until every last trace of your influence on this sport has been destroyed like the cancer it is."
Former ballet dancer
"Each day I'm fighting to be me again. In addition to being inspired by these incredibly strong women and wanting to set an example for my students, I'm motivated to come forward publicly with my story, and being involved with this case, to set a precedent that I will not be silenced and I will seek justice.
"This justice includes answering the questions of who allowed this to happen and why? That includes Michigan State University, USAG and Twistars' enablers. Who will be holding them accountable? I can assure people that I am not going anywhere."
Former family friend and neighbor of Nassar's
"You used my body for six years for your own sexual gratification. That is unforgivable. ... I've told counselors your name in hopes that they would report you. I have reported you 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 non-medical victim to come forward, 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. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world."
Former Michigan State student
"Larry, the thing you didn't realize while you were sexually assaulting me and all of these young girls and breaking our lives is that you were also building an army of survivors who would ultimately expose you for what you truly are -- a sexual predator.
"You might have broken us, but from this rubble we will rise as an army of female warriors who will never let you or any man drunk off of power get away with such evil ever again."
Former Olympic gymnast
"I thought that training for the Olympics would be the hardest thing that I would ever have to do. But in fact, the hardest thing I've ever had to do is process that I am a victim of Larry Nassar.
"It has caused me to feel shame and confusion. I have spent months trying to think back on my experience and wonder how I didn't even know this was happening to me and how I became so brainwashed by Larry and everyone at USA Gymnastics. Both whom I thought were supposed to be on my side. ...
"Nobody was protecting us from being taken advantage of. Nobody was even concerned whether or not we were being sexually abused. I was not protected, and neither were my teammates. My parents trusted USA Gymnastics and Larry Nassar to take care of me, and we were betrayed by both. And now, the lack of accountability from USAG, USOC and Michigan State have caused me and many other girls to remain shameful, confused and disappointed.
"I'm angry with myself for not recognizing the abuse, and that's something I am struggling with today. But even though I am a victim, I do not and will not live my life as one."