Should I say something? What's happening? I didn't know what to do. He just kept on talking about life like when you go to the dentist and they talk about random stuff to try to make you feel at ease. He didn't say anything out of the ordinary, he just did it as though he was doing something as mindless as riding a bicycle.
date of testimony: January 16th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
age of first assault: 20
age at hearing: 36
MS. BEDFORD: First of all, I will apologize for the length of this but I think in order to help you understand how this has impacted me I feel like it’s important to share a bit of my story.
THE COURT: Let me just say, no apologies necessary from you or any other individual who addresses the court. I said and I meant you have as much time as you need, so if you want to take until five o’clock, that’s okay. You all have as much time as you need.
I competed for Michigan State volleyball from fall of 2000 to 2003. Though the dates of my treatment under Doctor Nassar are a bit hazy in my mind, I remember this happened before the new training room was completed in Jenison Fieldhouse in 2002.
Okay. As for the details of my encounter with Nassar, unfortunately those are more difficult to forget.
A little history about me. Though legally an adult at 18, I was still very much a kid when I came to Michigan State. I left school, one, having kissed two boys and, two, armed with my dad’s permission to punch anybody in the nose who tried to put his hands where he shouldn’t.
Going in as a freshman I was pretty naive.
I was desperate to compete and I wanted to get better. I was considered a star player coming out of high school and expectations were high for me when I first entered the program. So when my performance was not up to par — I sat on the bench first half of the season — I felt like I was letting my team down so I worked harder, practiced more. Just like everyone in this room, you want to get on the floor and compete.
The rigors of training began to take a toll on my body and I battled shoulder inflammation along with back and leg injuries. I was highly motivated to heal and I wanted nothing more than to compete to my potential for the benefit of my team. Sports medicine was new to me so who was I to question it? Growing up in my family you went to the doctor if, one, you were dying, two, you broke a bone, or, three, you were due for a checkup. Other than my high school athletic trainer who occasionally iced and taped up my ankle, my experience with sports medicine doctors was obsolete at best. We treated our sprained ankles, jammed fingers, and pulled muscles at home. Coming under the care of sports medicine doctors was a new experience for me. I was absolutely blown away by the program and how well they took care of their student athletes.
So here are the details of the incidents as I remember them.
To the MSU volleyball team Doctor Nassar was jokingly referred to as the crouch doc for his unconventional methods of treating back and hip pain. The buzz around Jenison Fieldhouse is that he was somewhat of a wizard, a nationally recognized doctor with great success in his field of expertise. It seemed like the doctors at MSU were always in demand, especially Doctor Brumm and Doctor Nassar, so when I was squeezed in to see the doctor with the miracle treatments, I was very grateful. Again, this was back when Jenison had medical trailers for a brief time because our training room didn’t have adequate private space for doctors visits. I remember having the option of keeping my Spandex on, which I was very grateful for and chose. He had me lay down face down on the medical table. When he started treatment I remember him saying his treatment relied upon applying pressure to areas around the pelvis and that this was normal, so when he went down there I just told myself it was normal, that he knows what he’s doing, and don’t be a baby.
I remember he first started with pressure — excuse me. Excuse me. He first started with pressure points around the outside of my vagina and around my pubic bones. He said he was trying to relieve pressure and something about nerve endings in that area being related to the back. He would just ask me questions and talk about life, his work, and how he used this method to help some. However, during the procedure I am now choosing to report, he just gradually moved in, pressing through and stretching my Spandex with his fingers as he entered through my vaginal opening. I remember laying there wondering, is this okay? This doesn’t seem right.
Should I say something? What’s happening? I didn’t know what to do. He just kept on talking about life like when you go to the dentist and they talk about random stuff to try to make you feel at ease. He didn’t say anything out of the ordinary, he just did it as though he was doing something as mindless as riding a bicycle.
There are two arguments at war in my mind, this doesn’t seem right versus he’s a world-renowned doctor and he’s treated so many athletes. Everyone knows he treats down there and they don’t complain so just stop being a baby. Everyone trusted him. I told myself I needed to trust him, too, so I convinced myself it was just a normal part of the procedure and kept my mouth shut. However, I could not have prepared myself for what happened next.
Originally I was very hesitant to share the details of this part. I did not want to give Nassar or any other sexual predator the opportunity to relive any details but I think this is a huge problem in society today that there are people that are hesitant to speak up because they think a victim wanted to be assaulted. And that’s just not true. So in my opinion this is the worst part.
Again, growing up in a culture with little experience of my own, I assumed something like what happened to me would only happen if I wanted it to. Now that I’m a grown woman with friends in the medical field, I know this is not true at all from a medical standpoint, but what I knew at the time was based on magazines, movies, culture, and other teens just joking about it. To be clear, during that appointment Nassar put direct pressure on places I didn’t know existed at the time and my body reacted. I didn’t want it to but it reacted anyways, and as it was happening I remember laying there frozen stiff on the table utterly mortified, confused, and scared. I felt so powerless to control what was happening. My mind was willing one thing, for it to stop, and my body was doing another thing, not stopping. And all the time I had no idea whether or not he was aware of what was happening. He just kept on with his treatment as if nothing had happened.
I didn’t move until the treatment was over and then I tried my best to pretend nothing happened and left as quickly as I could.
The initial aftermath. In the aftermath questions raced through my mind a mile a minute trying to make sense of it all. What just happened?
Trying to desperately understand why I couldn’t control what was happening to my body. Could my body really react that way if I didn’t want it to? I thought that was impossible, but clearly it wasn’t because it just happened. If it’s not supposed to happen like that, what does that say about me? Was I sick or something? Did I need help? I felt like my body had just betrayed me, and I had built up such a wall of protection in my mind around Nassar that my first reaction was to question myself, to blame myself. I wanted to believe the best in people, but no matter how much I rationalized, he’s a doctor, he’s trying to help you, you should be grateful he’s treating you, he didn’t mean for it to happen, I couldn’t shake the voice in my head that said something wasn’t right.
But how could I tell someone? I was so afraid if I told someone the truth that they would think I was lying, that they would think I was one of those athletes just looking to stir up trouble. I was scared they would draw their own conclusions, they would believe the only way for my body to react in that manner was if I liked it, if I welcomed it, or if I wanted it. I knew — I was afraid that people would look at me differently. I was fearful of being looked down upon, of being labeled. I was fearful a man wouldn’t want me after that. That no man would want me. People would think I was messed up. I would be deemed unlovable, unacceptable, and what if what Doctor Nassar did was unintentional?
What if my body was just abnormal? Again, I was young, inexperienced, and I didn’t know there was a spot inside your body that triggered that type of response. I feared the possibility of accusing an innocent man, that I could ruin a good doctor’s reputation and career for performing a normal medical procedure. He couldn’t control how my body reacted, or could he?
Could what happen be some abnormal freakish side effect or something? But what if it wasn’t? It was all so confusing, but in the end I decided to go to my trainer, Lianna, or Lili as we affectionately called her, and ask if there was a way for athletes to file a general complaint just stating that they were uncomfortable with their doctor’s visit. Again, all I wanted to do was say I’m uncomfortable and to have that heard and recorded with the small hope that I wasn’t alone.
So when I came to her asking her if I could file a general complaint, she treated the situation with both seriousness and sober-mindedness and tried to walk me through the process the best way that she knew how. She asked me all sorts of questions, did Nassar do something you thought was criminally wrong? Did he hurt you? I remember trying to answer as truthfully as possible, but I was so scared of revealing what I thought were shameful details that I didn’t give her much to go on.
In the end, she wanted to make sure I correctly understood what filing a report would involve; an investigation, making an accusation against Nassar, and stating that I felt that he did something unprofessional or criminally wrong. At the time I couldn’t say I — could I say that with certainty? I had a hard time saying that with certainty. I just wanted to say I was uncomfortable and have it recorded. I wasn’t aware of a way to do that without making a formal accusation and exposing those mortifying details to the world, so instead of filing a report, I came up with a plan for the future. If I ever had to be treated by the doctor again, I would be forthright and clear. If he tried to go there, I would speak up. I would say I was uncomfortable, and I resolved in my mind if he proceeded to cross a boundary after that, I would drop kick him in the face. Armed with this initial resolution, it just felt safer to move on.
I’m sorry, I’m breaking from this for a minute.
And then you come in here and you see all these beautiful, young women, these little girls — I’ll get to that later. Just stick with it. Go.
So why am I now choosing to report this? I didn’t hear about the accusations against Doctor Nassar until the day after my birthday, which was April 7th of 2000.
Thank you. When I first heard about it my initial instinct was to send a group chat to my teammates. I knew some had been treated by him, and I wanted to make sure no one was as oblivious as I was. It sparked a conversation and I found myself once again faced with a decision to speak up. Memories began to resurface and I found myself having to revisit the scenario once more again under different circumstances.
With a sexual experience of a woman married nearly 12 years and armed with the realization far more athletes had similar experiences to my own, I now find it very hard to believe that Doctor Nassar, as a recognized medical professional, did not know those spots were there and that he was unaware of the changes that were happening to me when I was lying face down on that medical table, so I called my church mentor, a physical therapist at Botsford Hospital in Metro Detroit, and through uncontrollable sobbing I began to painfully unearth and recollect the incident I had so decidedly buried years ago.
She was the first person I ever told. Even armed with the knowledge I was not alone, I could barely muster enough courage to share the details of my encounter with Nassar.
Gradually over the period of a few days I faced my fear, opened up to select friends, family, and my team about the incident. The love and support I received from them has been overwhelming, especially from my husband who’s been an un-formidable rock of protection, love, and understanding through this process. If I were to put someone else in my shoes, I feel like I could easily understand her situation, her emotions, and reluctance to speak up, but it’s a little bit more difficult when you’re the one in those shoes.
The past few weeks — so this is when I initially made my report in May, so during that time period and since it’s been a roller coaster of emotions. I constantly ask myself, did I have the power to stop him? Did I have the power? Could my voice have been the one that broke the chain of abuse and stopped him in his tracks? Even now speaking the truth is, admittedly, difficult. It’s vulnerable.
It’s risky. People might still arrive at their own misguided conclusions, and I’m powerless to stop it. However, I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do. Even though my case may be 101 out of a hundred similar cases, I want to stand with all women who came forward before me and after me if just to say you’re not alone. And speaking up for my loved ones, my nieces, my nephews, my family, brothers, sisters, friends, I pray they would never find themselves in similar circumstances, but should that day come, I want them to be courageous, truthful, and to speak up without shame. I am speaking simply to stand for truth and to face fear and to refuse to give fear a foothold any longer.
Since I gave my initial statement to Doctor Munford, detective.
Getting all of this on paper and preparing for this has been no small feat. The amount of energy and emotional toll required to process and digest all of it has been completely draining. I agonized for hours whether or not to speak in person, processing the potential repercussions and how my actions and decisions to speak up would affect loved ones around me, the opinions people have of me. I wish I could say this was it, that this crime would no longer affect me or my loved ones, that I could forgive once, find closure, and simply move on, I just want it to be over, but, unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
The truth is that once the gavel comes down and the sentence is revealed, for me the battle is not over. Memories remain and a sense of uneasiness and uncertainty has been created from the choice to come forward, to stand, and to be counted. How does one gain victory over memories? You can battle memories but you can’t erase them. We try to keep them at arm’s length, stop, locked someplace outside the boundary of our daily lives. However, despite all our effort to squelch, bury, and forget, those memories remain and they find a way to invade at the most inopportune times. They have no scruples, no manners, or decorum. All it takes is one trigger to unlock the door and those memories rush in like a flood. Sometimes during even our most private and intimate moments they rush in unwelcomed with the ability to make us feel just as ashamed, just as embarrassed, small, and powerless as we felt when the incident first happened.
While I have hope to find peace and gain quicker victory over the emotions that accompany those memories, fighting to remain at a place of peace will be a battle I fight for the rest of my life. Memories like that try to accuse you at every opportunity.
During this season of life, this is my reality. By making a decision to speak I must not only face the memories of those events but unearth, revisit, and reassess all the details I so decidedly buried years ago. There were things I didn’t understand and things I made excuses for, because, quite frankly, I was afraid. And processing it all has been both painful, damaging, liberating, and terrifying all at once.
For the longest time my story was hidden.
No one could hurt or judge because no one knew. Now it feels — well, not feels, everyone knows. Try to imagine yourself stripped naked, exposed to the world standing in a room filled with people examining you, judging you. I kept my secret away for years because of fear. I imagined the worst thing that could happen and the risk felt too great.
I’m still convinced my decision to stand for truth, to silence shame, and to be counted is the right thing to do, but I didn’t anticipate — what I didn’t anticipate was that this resolve to stand for truth would be challenged in my own mind every single time I chose to share my story. Entrusting the truth to others, it’s not without risk. You hear it over and over. It’s a safe place. Safe? You want to believe that. But no matter which way you slice it, you’re still standing there naked in the middle of a room vulnerable revealing some painful details to people, people who have both the power to heal and hurt, restore and ostracize, support and reject, or bully and blame, and you’re powerless to control their reactions. Simply observe children out on a playground and you’ll learn very quickly human beings do not need a reason to be unkind.
So if history dictates that a storm might be coming and that people could be both unkind towards you and towards the loved ones that stand up for you, you brace for impact, and this is the tumultuous aftermath. It is paranoia and the fear of not being accepted. It’s dealing with the swirling, raging, chaotic storm of thoughts and fears that accompany one’s choice to be vulnerable and being forced to face the uncertainty that comes from an unavoidable reality. What was hidden is no longer hidden, and because of that, circumstances in your life could be different than they were before.
I didn’t anticipate that I would second-guess myself, that I would second-guess my relationships, and even the thoughts of those closest to me. I found — it’s not difficult to imagine what people are thinking. Granted, saying, hey, I know what you must think before people have had a chance to express their opinion isn’t exactly fair, but it’s not difficult for my train of thought to go down that track.
As a result of what’s happened with Doctor Nassar I need to fight harder to trust those close to me and equally hard to make insignificant the opinions of those that would come against the truth of who I am.
And that’s a whole separate level, my own thoughts towards myself. You’re faced with the realization that you could have said something and didn’t because you were afraid, ignorant athletes. We’re supposed to be brave. We’re supposed to be strong. But you were a coward. Your dad is a police officer, you should have known better. You made the wrong choice. You see, it’s not that difficult for
our own hearts to condemn us either. I have battled guilt of not speaking up. I questioned my ability to make sound decisions, and I needed to face the truth that, yes, I was scared. But I was recently reminded by a friend of a passage I love in my bible. It’s 1 John, 3:18 through 20, that says, Little children, let us not love in word and speech but in action and truth and by this we will know that we belong to the truth and will assure our hearts in his presence.
Even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts. He knows all things.
So my conclusion, I’m still searching for healing, for wholeness. I know it’s there for me but at this point in time I can’t see it fully, but I’m battling for it. Every person who has come forward must find their own way to stand under the weight of it all. As an athlete, I was trained to battle, to be a warrior, to fight and overcome, so for me in my mind I find myself engaged in an all-out war against any accusation that might come against the truth of who I know myself to be.
As a Christian I have every reason to hope, yet right now I’m fighting to believe that. When my heart condemns on every side, when that train of thought starts barreling down the tracks a hundred miles an hour with no sign of stopping, what’s left to me is to step out in front of that train, root, ground myself in the truth of who I am, and stand firm in that foundation and push back.
I am loveable. I am wanted. I am significant. I am accepted. I am valuable. I was made to love God and love people without fear. Depression is not my portion but joy and hope are my portion.
The road to healing looks steep from where I am standing now, but I am a warrior. There are unformidable truths that God says about me that no man can steal or spoil, so I arm myself with these truths. They’re a sword in my arsenal and I know the end of the story for me. I will win, but I’m still — right now I’m still in the fight.
As for the sentencing, I feel I can trust the judgment and decision of the court after hearing all of these testimonies that have come before you.
May I address Doctor Nassar, please?
As for forgiveness, Doctor Nassar, I want you to know that I pray for you and I do forgive you. Is there still hurt? Absolutely. It’s a part of processing. But please know my forgiveness towards you is sincere. What good would it be to hold on to bitterness and anger, especially in light of such great forgiveness that’s been granted to me that I should be called a child of God.
Never allow yourself to believe you’re beyond forgiveness, though certainly your actions are not without consequences and you will face the consequences of those actions, you’re facing them now, but there is hope that transcends all understanding for those that seek it. If Paul the apostle could find it, you can find it. It’s beautiful and it’s worth living for, and I believe that what you’ve done, those choices you made, is not who God intended for you to be when he chose to bring you into this world. You can choose to be a better man and to be a different person, and I really do pray and hope that you seek — seek him and find that. Thank you.
THE COURT: Thank you. Thank you for your words. I thought they were powerful, and a couple things I loved about what you said is that you said some positive things about yourself, and that’s really helpful to the other survivors.
You are courageous. You are truthful, and you recognize, especially as an athlete — we found now gymnastics, soccer, this is now extended into volley ball, and as athletes you all know the saying no pain, no gain. This case certainly sheds a whole new light on that saying, in my mind.
You all have to go through the fire of this pain, but there will be tremendous gain, not just for you but for countless others who are in the same situation or who may be in the same situation in the future.
What you’ve expressed, your thinking, how you were thinking that you didn’t really voice it because you were so young will remind young people to ask those questions, is this okay, this doesn’t feel right, why doesn’t it feel right, let me talk to someone, to have that voice beyond inside of their head to ask an adult who hopefully is a different trusted adult, because those questions are important and those voices should come out and there should be somebody always available to listen.
And you talked about blame. Blame is an epidemic in these cases that has to stop, and your words can help stop the blame, because victims should never, ever be blamed, and it’s that fear that stopped you from asking those questions, and all of you who are coming forward hopefully have that fear along with others, ask those all important questions, and maybe teachers to talk to students, parents to talk to their children about if it doesn’t feel right.
We’ve all read those articles but many people don’t voice it, and you have voiced it here today. You have a very powerful voice.
And you talked about your instinct. Your instinct was to drop kick him in the face.
MS. BEDFORD: Yep.
THE COURT: And you know what, I can tell you every law enforcement person would say that’s self defense. If someone touches you wrong, go ahead. It is through the eyes of the person who feels it, who sees it. There was a crime against you and you were just too respectful of trusted adults, which he was and should not have been given that respect, but you didn’t know better, but now others may very well listen to that word as well, that sentence to drop kick him in the face. If somebody does you wrong, go ahead. Self defense is a defense. I’m proud of you, ma’am. You are strong.
You will be healed. You will send your message, this ripple, in continents we haven’t even thought about. Congratulations.
MS. BEDFORD: Thank you.