date of testimony: January 17th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
age at first abuse: 12
MS. POVILAITIS: Your Honor, the next survivor also just made the decision within the last few hours to be publicly identified.
When I was 12 years old I was molested by Larry Nassar during a doctor’s appointment for my back. That assault has impacted nearly every area of my life. I did not recognize right away the psychological scars that were planted following the assault. Because I was a young girl I was too innocent to even have a category in my mind for this type of offense and I knew no way to cope. I did not know that sexual molestation was a thing, and I did not know how to tell someone what was wrong.
I could not fathom that someone I was taught to trust, a doctor, could intentionally harm me. In the gymnastics community Nassar is seen as a highly skilled physician that I felt lucky to be able to go see. He was always recommended to me. He was always respected, and he was fully trusted.
I went to see him for the first time when I was in elementary school. I walked into his office at Michigan State University and I saw all the posters he had on his walls that were signed by many world class gymnasts that I respected. I was in awe.
When I was lying on that table and he began molesting me with an ungloved hand, despite feeling extreme discomfort, embarrassment, and confusion, I thought I had no right to speak up. I thought, what is he doing? Why isn’t he wearing gloves? This is disgusting. Why is this happening? But he was the doctor and I was the child so he knew what he was doing and he knew what was best.
I did not know how to deal with the conflicting ways in which he would treat me, either. I did not know what to think when in one sentence he would be joking around with me and then the next he would be making inappropriate comments about my body. I walked away from that one appointment with a deeply ingrained sense of distrust, helplessness, shame, and worthlessness.
I never talked to anyone about it because I was embarrassed and filed it in my mind as just an uncomfortable doctor’s appointment that I wanted to avoid ever experiencing again.
Shortly after that I quit one of my first loves, gymnastics. I look back now and I wish I could scream into the past to myself and say, please tell someone that something is not right, something is wrong.
Over the past years I have thought of that day often and gotten lost in the replay of the event many times. I watch through the years not understanding why I had so much difficulty trusting anyone and why I had a problem feeling so much guilt and shame. I felt that these things were just who I was. I was often depressed, anxious, and suicidal.
I suffered from insomnia and nightmares and all of these things have caused a strain on my relationships.
Larry Nassar damaged the most important relationship in my life, my relationship with my mother. When he abused me, my mother was in the room, and even though I know now she had no knowledge of the assault, at the time I felt even less power to speak up because I assumed if something were wrong, she would do something about it. He used my natural trust of my mother to manipulate me.
He manipulated her as well in the way he positioned me and the trust he built with her over years. How dare you. What kind of a person has the audacity to sexually assault a child in front of their mother? The kind of person who deserves life in prison.
Larry Nassar needs to spend the rest of his life in prison for the sake of every child he would ever come in contact with again. We want justice for all of us who were affected by his disgusting crimes. He will not spend his life behind bars only for those of us here who are able to speak out but also for the children and the horrific images he kept who cannot speak.
Larry, you knew what you were doing to us. You’re not stupid. You’re not ignorant. You were a trained medical doctor. You knew the damage you were causing. But I can barely bring myself to say you were a doctor because you so grossly abused your position. Larry Nassar, you were an imposter of a doctor.
I’m still learning what it means to be forgiven and what it means to grant forgiveness, and I’m trying to forgive you while simultaneously not blaming myself for actions that you chose to take. I do know, though, that while my imperfect forgiveness is probably completely out of reach for you, God’s forgiveness isn’t. Every time you abused a child, he wept. He wept for all of his daughters, but he also wept for his son. But it’s your responsibility to be the person that he intended you to be. That’s on you.
I said earlier that I felt that my inability to trust, my shame, worthlessness, and guilt was just who I am. Well, it isn’t. I refuse to be your victim any longer. It is not who I am.
My body is my own. My spirit is my own. And I wonder if you realized that when you were breaking and abusing a soft spoken, an innocent 12 year old, that some day she would be an 18 year old who would tell her story, and here it is. This is not my shame anymore. It’s yours. Thank you.
THE COURT: Thank you.
MRS. LEE WIECK (mother of Helena): Your Honor, can I say something?
THE COURT: Yes.
MRS. WIECK: I just wanted to say, as other parents have, and I know there are many in this room that can appreciate the incredible pain and anguish of parents, that my husband and I have felt we could not protect our child, and I just appreciate so much that you, your court, are starting that healing process by justice happening in the case of Nassar.
And you mentioned that enablement is beginning to end, and it is beginning but people have to take responsibility and the institutions that enabled this to happen have to take responsibility.
My husband is a pastor and in that role he has a responsibility. We had a young woman in our church come to him and say that she had experienced sexual abuse by someone in our church, and I understand that it’s hard. It’s incredibly hard to implicate someone that you’ve trusted, that you know personally, that you consider a friend, a colleague, that is very hard, but that is the role, that is the responsibility. The people in authority who have those roles have to take responsibility or this will not stop. Thank you. I appreciate you hearing me.
THE COURT: Absolutely, ma’am. The voice of adults need to protect those who don’t have a voice. I said it before, I’ll say it again, it’s children, elderly, anybody incapacitated in any way, and so what I have to say to you is thank you for being here with your daughter, that pillar of strength.
She indicates this has ruined or affected your relationship. What I want to say to your daughter is that at every age you need a parent, a mom, a dad, whomever you have, hopefully both, and your mother, like all the other parents in the room or out of the room, mother or father, did not know. There is no blame here to your parents or to yourself. The blame lies solely with defendant and his manipulation of everybody. So I’m hoping that you rebuild your relationship with your parents as an adult now and keep it open and honest and shout out for any harm you see to an animal, to a child, to an adult, anybody. We need to keep this discussion going.
It has made you stronger. I see that. Let go of all those things that you talked about, the shame, the guilt, the worthlessness. You all have that common thread, all of you survivors, but it needs to disappear today because you’ve taken back your life, your power, your strength, the life that shines in you. God gave you that. He hasn’t taken it away. You just set it aside for now.
I know judges don’t usually talk about God, but I believe in God and almost every victim, survivor has talked about God. He is here.
Sometimes I think he tells me what to do or say, and people think I’m a little bit crazy about that, but I do believe that he’s here and he’s brought all of you together for a reason, and you will heal together. I don’t want you to forget that. And I need you to work with your parents. Can you do that to rebuild? There’s no relationship better than that of a child and a parent. It’s where you start.
I can’t thank you enough. You have your power back. He’s lost his. I wish you all the best
MS. WIECK: Thank you.