Melody Posthuma Vanderveen
date of testimony: January 18th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
age at first abuse: 13
abuse lasted: 6 years
age at hearing:
MS. POVILAITIS: Your Honor, I am especially glad to be able to introduce you to the next survivor. This young woman to my right is Melody Posthuma. She was previously identified in court documents as charged victim F and about seven months ago when she was going to come to court and testify at the preliminary examination, at that point in her life it was too much, and we had many conversations about the best way to support her and honor her choices and give her legitimate choices, and at that point she chose for us to dismiss those charges. We would never make a victim come to court if they did not want to participate in that matter and Detective Munford and I supported that, absolutely.
Fast forward seven months, we’re here today and she wishes to be both publicly identified and speak, and she’s accompanied, I understand, by her newly married husband.
For a long time now I’ve dreaded this moment where I will work to formulate words that could come close to representing all that needs to be said today. I’m sure that is how all the other victims and families who were affected by Nassar’s actions feel.
There have been countless articles, news reports, court hearings to list all the awful things that he has done, and every one of them are true.
I’m standing here today with so many others who were abused by Nassar and each of us have our own perspective and story that has ever been changed because we were the unfortunate ones to go to him for a professional service.
I date my experience back to my 13th birthday. I was clearly just a child. I was very vulnerable because I was never educated in the area of abuse until much later. Even when I was knowledgeable there was no way that I could have ever identified what he was doing as such
Larry was a craftsman of manipulation using his power and status to control and take advantage of children who he groomed to essentially worship his needs. He hugged me when I walked into the room, made jokes with me, asked me questions about my personal life, about my boyfriends. He established a relationship of trust with me. This went on for over six years of regular appointments with 45 minute sessions all a part — a part of all of them except one that I can recall.
Little did I realize that me seeking help for my intense body pain would result in a life of trauma, high anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
I first received the article back in September 2016 from a high school friend because she knew that he was my doctor. In fact, every one of my schoolmates knew that I went to him because I had so many regular doctor appointments. He had me so fooled that when I first read the headlines of the article I laughed in disbelief and defended him. I know I was in a dance rehearsal and I straight up told people, look at this, it’s such a lie. I went to him for years, and I defended him at that moment
And then I read the article, and then it hit me; I was one of the women that people talk about that might be messed up for the rest of my life because I was sexually abused. From that moment on my life changed drastically. I spoke with reporters, detectives, my parents, my brother, a couple close friends, and later the FBI.
Every time I got a 517 call I panicked. I remember the day that I saw his phone number in my phone and I deleted that. That was months after finding out. I had to block him on all social media.
THE COURT: How did that feel, ma’am?
MS. VANDERVEEN: It was kind of crazy to realize how personal that relationship was.
THE COURT: Did that start to empower you?
MS. VANDERVEEN: Yeah.
THE COURT: Good.
MS. VANDERVEEN: Absolutely. But next came the nightmares. Some of the people I told did not believe me. I admitted myself into counseling that very first week because I did not want to be one of those messed up girls who could not function in a relationship.
I met my husband that very week. The first time we talked was because I had a panic attack in public and he was working and stepped out and said, can I pray for you, and we prayed together, and now we’re married three months almost.
THE COURT: Congratulations.
MS. VANDERVEEN: Thank you. Over the course of 2016 into 2017 everything became more difficult as national news stations were covering information about him. People would send me articles. They would text me articles. Professors would talk about it in class and describe what they thought happened. Nothing has been private regarding this issue. Nothing.
Imagine your deepest, darkest pain that was never in your control being publicized nationally on a regular basis for a year and a half. I’m standing here today four counselors later. My family is under immense financial stress from all the counseling bills and I am still fighting to be freed from the pain that has been caused to me.
I am not alone in this. There are hundreds, if not thousands — I really believe there are thousands — of others who were affected and will continue to be affected decades after you remain behind bars.
So I ask, what are we to do with a horrific situation such as this? I’ve had a lot of people say to me I hope he rots in prison or he can burn in hell, but the reality is we need to call out a deeper issue at hand.
We live in a society that does not take action when it is most needed. Knowledge is power, and even when people have knowledge that could heal they most often say nothing. It is important to remember that this man has a severe mental illness. He’s a sick, evil man. Those who allowed his behavior to continue, notably Michigan State University, who knew and did nothing are also sick, evil people and are equally as liable.
I was never notified about Larry’s restrictions which were placed upon him while I was being treated. If I had known, I would have immediately stopped seeking professional help from him. Everyone after 2014 could have been protected due to these restrictions, but no one spoke up, even though they were legally obligated to do so.
My last appointment was December of 2014. He did the normal treatment; of course, vaginal penetration was the standard. Then he told me I think you have a ligament disease called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. He said, you’re more flexible than all the other girls. I can put my whole hand inside of there, move you around as I want to, he admitted at that last appointment. I never saw him again.
I did get diagnosed with that disease and I suffer for the rest of my life for that and a lot of it probably due to the pain I’ve experienced from those treatments. Treatments.
Giving him a life sentence today is what I am asking for, but that is just the starting grounds for what really needs to happen going forward. Organizations, businesses, our schools and universities, specifically, should be on high alert to protect innocent children, beginning with women.
Checks and balances must be in place so that innocent children and adults do not have to live in fear of someone taking advantage of them. Mental health checks and accountability should be the norm for any person of authority and power, beginning in medicine.
Counseling and mental health services need to be easily accessible. High insurance deductibles are just as prohibiting as little to no insurance. I’m the living proof of that on.
We need to educate and discuss these issues to people at a young age so that men can learn to speak out on behalf of women, not just women, rather than objectifying them.
There needs to be a much greater control on both the child and adult porn industry. That is a must and needs to be talked about a lot more than it is. It starts with shifting the minds of both men and women who are taught to focus on and protect themselves first. Every time one person does not speak with the truth, another person will be hurt in profound ways. My life is proof of this statement.
Can I speak to him directly?
I’m not yet in a place where I can say that I forgive you, though I really would like to be. I’ve actually prayed for you many, many times — that was hard, but I did — that you would come to know the God that you claimed that you knew. And in reality, only Jesus can heal my heart about this situation, and I really am getting there, but I am still suffering every day and will continue to do so.
And I ask each one of you and everyone this reaches that you will cultivate environments where women do not have to live in fear. I whole-heartedly believe that this begins with giving you a life sentence today.
Thank you so much.
THE COURT: Thank you for your words. Ma’am, you talk about Jesus. Jesus gave you the tools, the voice, the ability to heal. The world has heard your words, and your life is proof that there will be change. Your words, you being here, having that strength now to come forward in front of all these people —
MS. VANDERVEEN: I couldn’t have done it without him.
THE COURT: And your husband, it’s ironic how you met. That week was meant to be to help you through this, and that’s a gift you shouldn’t take lightly, but neither should you say that you are messed up for the rest of your life.
MS. VANDERVEEN: I don’t believe it.
THE COURT: Good. That’s what you said. I don’t feel that you’re messed up. I really feel at this point that you are on a path not only to make change for yourself but for all people in unison with your sister survivors, and, fortunately, you have a strong man that also has that voice and is with you.
This is a horrific situation. He will be behind bars. I don’t know if he’ll ever understand why he’s behind bars. Your voice — voices in unison are so important to send the message to the court, the world that this won’t be tolerated and that we need to punish harshly for these actions.
I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do. We’ll find out the rest of the story, but all of this is very useful for me and for the world and for legislators, and I’m hopeful that you will take your message to the state and federal government for change, that all of you and your sister survivors will, because the change is needed, as you said, and that means that no one else’s life will be messed up.
MS. VANDERVEEN: Thank you.
THE COURT: Thank you.