date of testimony: January 17th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
statement read by court official Rebekah Snyder
I don’t want to write this. I’ve been dreading this moment where I would have to come face to face with my feelings and emotions and tell the court and the defendant exactly just how much damage has been done. This hurts. This is not fun. But it is necessary for me to heal or at least to start healing.
I don’t think I can accurately express in words just how emotional this process has been, to face down these words: I am a victim of sexual assault. I am a survivor of sexual assault. I don’t even know if one can survive the events that rob a person of their wholeness, their innocence. All we can do is try. All we can do is support one another as the bandaids are ripped off every time sexual assault is mentioned, every time a family member or a friend or the media, knowingly or not, engages in victim blaming, every time you found out that one of your heroes has been victimized by a monster.
I’d like to think I could have stopped him. Could I have? When you were fooled by him and manipulated into not even knowing the difference between right and wrong, when decades pass before you realize that this was sexual assault, could any of us have stopped him? Did he have that much control over us? Was his big, bad, gymnastics doctor, God status too much for any of us to take down? Could I have prevented my heroes from his filthy hands? This is the guilt I bear each day. This is the shame I feel each moment of each day.
Lying in my puddle of tears I often ask myself if I will ever feel happiness again. How could I? I am disgusting. To myself, to my husband, to anyone who looks at me they may ask, how could you have not known? Why didn’t you tell your parents?
Coach? Anybody? Any adult? If you were asking these questions, you truly do not comprehend the abusive power by this master manipulator.
I began to love gymnastics from the age of six and truly fell in love after watching the ’92 games. I wanted to be an Olympian. Sure, it was a long shot, but I still thought if I could train as hard and exercise my passion, I, too, would experience the magic that gymnastics had to offer, and boy did it. I surely didn’t become an Olympian, not even close, but I trained as hard as an Olympian would and had the best experience with gymnastics that a person could ever have.
The first time I heard about Nassar was through my experience working out at Twistars Gymnastics Club. My teammate who had trained with the Gedderts for a long period of time talked about his ability to fix her. I was envious. He was the gymnastics doctor, physician to the Olympians.
Due to the long training and constant overuse injuries I, too, was broken from gymnastics. I first personally came into contact with Nassar when I injured my ACL after one practice whereupon I was rushed to Twistars for an expert assessment from the one, the only Doctor Nassar.
I was referred to his partner for surgery, but that experience of being with him in the same room, the one who carried off my idol, Kerri Strug, only a couple years before was equivalent to meeting a celebrity.
When I began experiencing back troubles a year later, I was referred to Nassar. I was a student at Michigan State University at this time and felt a strange kinship that I was going to see the MSU gymnastics team doctor. The Olympic gymnastics team doctor. Even though I was never anywhere near their level of talent, it seemed like I belonged to something, some kind of club that was special.
The greater Lansing gymnastics community I was in, I knew everybody. I was loved. I belonged.
I was still coaching at the time and I knew that a few of my gymnasts had seen him. I was excited. I remember feeling like an Olympian as I drove to the appointment and saw the autographed framed pictures of my heroes decorating his room. Little did I know that I was signing up for what is now daily emotional pain, guilt, and depression that I am certain will last a lifetime.
He sexually assaulted me four times. He digitally penetrated my vagina and groped my breasts inappropriately four times. It hurts so badly to write it, to know that someone will read it allowed in a courtroom of strangers, but ultimately that — this is now a truth in my life.
I remember him asking each time at the beginning of the appointment if what he had done in the last appointment helped? What were we supposed to say, no, it didn’t help? Well, then I wouldn’t be able to see the doctor God anymore and in that sense I would be giving up my gymnastics identity, which I wasn’t prepared to do at the time, and so he continued to manipulate, play on his authority status, abuse little girls sexually for his own purposes.
I often wonder about the sociopathic nature he continued and continues to exhibit. I truly do not think he is remorseful. I truly believe that he flaunted his sexual abuse and child pornographic exploits in the face of everyone who trusted him. You really did think you would get away with this, didn’t you? But as a fellow victim’s husband said so brilliantly, you didn’t know that one day these scared, powerless girls would grow up to be the brave, fearless women who would expose you for the unimaginable monster that you are. That we would stand united together and take our power back
Nassar, you deserve an eternity of suffering for the damage you have caused, and there is no bone of forgiveness in this body for you robbed me of that when you put your filthy hands all over my body with malice, disrespect, and a sheer will to destroy me as a human being deserving of love, dignity, and the right to be happy in life How has this crime impacted me? I am broken. I’m trying to put the pieces back together through counseling, but I know deep down that I will never be the same. Again, this reckoning with the idea that I’m a victim of sexual assault has been excruciating, unexpected, and has blind-sided me.
I got married last year. I earned a master’s degree recently. You would think with all these accomplishments that I would be happy, ecstatic, ready to tackle the rest of my life with a loving husband and armed with an education that seeks to ensure this catastrophe of abuse will never happen in sports or any other industry again, but I remain paralyzed, unable to move my leaden legs and often my broken body from my bed each day. You see, the damage caused was significant throughout my life.
Unbeknownst to me, however, as I did not seek medical treatment for my aches and pains as subconsciously I am now aware of the fear from which I operated as a result of the mistrust of doctors that I had repressed deep down.
The damage continues to impact my relationship with my husband. It was only recently that I learned of certain sexual dysfunctions that I endure as a result of Nassar sexually abusing me. The intimacy that should be experienced in a normal relationship is one that I will never know due to my lack of trust and fear that accompany any intimate moment. My relationship is broken. Thankfully my husband is not a monster like you and is willing to help me pick up the pieces of a shattered psyche that forever elude any semblance of normal.
As far as my family relationships go, many of my relatives do not know about these assaults. I am too embarrassed to tell them. I am afraid they will say the same things that all critics can so easily mutter, why didn’t you tell anyone? Why didn’t you tell us? It is the same answer that we all have, he manipulated us to think that what he was doing was not wrong. There was nothing to tell. Now there is, but the shame, guilt, and disgust prevent me from trusting my family, will — trusting that my family will support me unconditionally. That is the extent of the damage.
I have lost trust in everyone I know, including myself, and will forever doubt that I am truly cared for by anyone. You robbed us of our ability to love ourselves, to trust others, to rely on anyone. Why? Because we relied on you. We counted on you to not abuse our bodies, our minds, our souls.
You have severely damaged entire generations of young women and their families, families for whom I feel the utmost shame of myself and must present my sincerest apologies for not knowing, for not questioning.
My parents passed away quite a while ago, but for those young women whose families have been equally manipulated by this monster, my heart and undying devotion to address and eliminate this type of abuse will hopefully drive me into a place of forgiveness from you. I let you down. I am sorry for the pain that this has caused you.
To all of the beautiful young women who this has impacted, please know I am sorry. There aren’t words to tell you how truly sorry I am.
To Nassar, you will not defeat us. We will slowly and painfully take back the power and control we relinquished to you. Your robbery of innocence will bring forth a fury that ensues that someone of your malevolence will never go unnoticed again. We will create and sustain the necessary change that guarantees that a young woman will never be made to feel the way we feel.
Nevertheless, she persisted. As previously mentioned, I have suffered long lasting physical symptoms, mostly back pain that I reluctantly sought treatment for over the last several years as a result of the mistrust I have for doctors, especially male doctors. I recently began a physical therapy program as I attempt to heal myself emotionally and physically after discovering that I am a victim of sexual assault. I have a male physical therapist and there is not a second that goes by when I am in treatment that I am not afraid. I know that I must confront these fears in order for the healing process to begin, but that doesn’t change the feeling of paralysis as he performs therapy, a feeling that I don’t foresee receding any time soon. I take some solace in knowing that this professional practices ethically, explaining procedures and obtaining consent, ensuring that I am covered and draped, not exposing any sensitive areas and does everything to ensure that he follows protocol, something Nassar never did.
Mental injuries as a result of coming to terms with the idea of being a victim of sexual assault as well as reliving the nightmares responsible for these feelings are rather exhaustive. I alternate between feelings of overwhelming depression and hopelessness to painful anxiety attacks that debilitate me in my daily life. I have committed to an undetermined length of treatment for counseling and psychological therapy to try to enhance my comprehension of this experience and the damage this revelation has caused. Most days I have a hard time getting out of bed due to the weight of guilt and shame I now must face.
My husband tries to help me by supporting my feelings and giving me space to process these horrible emotions. He certainly must feel a sense of rage toward you as your abuse robs us daily of a productive, blissful life that most newly married partners enjoy
I can see the disappointment in his face as he tries every day to erase the pain and attempt to get through the day. I can even say our most overwhelming emotion at this point is uncertainty. We don’t know how this impacts us. How will this continue to rear its ugly head in our lives? To once again feel powerless as a result of your abuses and our revelation that what you did was wrong feels like your reach has a never-ending arm of destruction.
It is only when we acknowledge this that we are able to take what’s left of us at the end of an emotionally draining day, week, month, year and hold each other in the solace, in the knowledge that you will pay for your crimes, you will suffer endlessly.
We will continue to work every day, every moment to take our power back. It will not be without challenge, without hardship, without pain, but we will fight to ensure that abuses like yours will never be perpetrated against another human being. Not on our watches.
So, in essence, thank you. Thank you for destroying me. The Phoenix will always rise from the ashes, and I can tell you with conviction of a million armies, the ones you sought to ruin, will rise up and create change that will negate all of the wrongs you have caused. Our movement will not be stopped, so, Nassar, thank you. Even though you deserve not even the words I am writing now and certainly do not deserve compassion or forgiveness, your wrongs will be made right.
The impact Nassar’s abuse has had on me is universal. As I was trying to finish my master’s degree last year as I first became aware that I was a victim of Nassar I was unable to effectively concentrate in school and I’ve been stricken with panic attacks that hindered my ability to do my best in school. As I tried to engage fully, I found myself unable to retain a present focus and I was either haunted by your abuse in the past, coming to terms with my new found status as an assault victim, feeling rage each time I saw you were denying your abuses, having to hide my emotional pain from my classmates, family, and professors, reading with each passing day just how many women you hurt, how many families you have broken, and, lastly, learning that my heroes had to endure your disgusting, quote, treatments, unquote, all the while feeling a sense of guilt that is indescribable as I must live with the knowledge that if I had been strong enough, you couldn’t have hurt them.
My heart aches every moment of every day knowing that so many young women were abused by you and now have to live with the disabling pain of your abuses.
As I now begin my career after school, I am still struck daily with a level of depression that is not easy to dispel. I experience severe anxiety that pervades my existence. I truly have lost trying to find purpose in daily living and am remiss to enjoy many of the activities I once enjoyed.
I love to read but now find that I only want to read about how miserable you are as I obsess on Google for any update.
I love to dance but now I find when I dance it reminds me of when I used to be happy dancing. Now I find difficulty concentrating to music, connecting to music, or anything joyful as my mind always seems to go to a dark place where you have taken everything away.
I love to connect with people, but not anymore. I am afraid they will find me out, find out that I am broken, that I am responsible for breaking of others. I am a fraud.
I love spending time with my husband. I love the thought of being intimate but I am robbed of this reality as I am confronted with a novel source of confusion and desperation as I try to make sense of my dysfunction resulting from your abuse.
Everything that I loved in life is no longer enjoyable as I reflect on the dark, hidden emotions your abuse has caused. My life forever altered by your despicable, deplorable, harmful, and hateful abuses.
My mission has become to educate, advocate for, and empower the gymnastics community and will make this my number one priority for the rest of my life. As of right now, though, I am endlessly waiting for that life to begin. The pain you have inflicted on my psyche presents a seemingly immovable obstacle that stands waiting for me as I attempt to approach each new day. I am confident that I will face this insurmountable challenge as I work towards healing and let this adversity spawn the flame that would be needed to affect profound and substantial change within this hurting community, pain that you and your enablers at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics caused and allowed to affect too many lives for far too long.
All of you, Nassar, Michigan State University administration, coaches, trainers, deans, presidents, ADs, board of trustees, USA Gymnastics presidents, USA Gymnastics board members, and USA Gymnastics gyms that perpetuate a culture of abuse, you all, especially you, Larry Nassar — I hate saying your name — deserve a life filled with shame, humiliation, and disgrace as we survivors strive to take back what you all stole from us. Never again.
Nassar deserves the maximum sentence possible for the crimes he has committed against me and so many other innocent beautiful women. Since we will all be imprisoned for the rest of our lives for his sexual abuse and the subsequent pain, humiliation, and guilt we will endure, Nassar deserves no less. He should not be able to enjoy another moment in his life, and we will carry the weight of his abuse on our shoulders for the rest of our lives. It will impact our relationships. It will impact our well-being, emotional and physical. It will impact our abilities to trust, to love, to empathize. He should never have the ability to experience this world as a free person as he has forever imprisoned his victims in a world of shame, one so dark that the only light we have is to support each other, champion each other, and support one another’s dreams.
I am confident that we will move from victims to survivors and will endeavor and succeed in all we do to ensure that abuses of power like this are never allowed to occur again. Nassar should not be given the freedom to even know that he has empowered us as such. Victim 10.
THE COURT: Thank you. I don’t know if Victim 10 is here or is listening online or will later read the transcript, but my message to her — and, by the way, I’m doing this so at sentencing I don’t have to make a long statement. I’ll make a statement but I wanted to make sure I made individual comments to each victim, because it’s important, and as to Victim 10, I don’t know if you’re listening, I’m hoping that you are, your status now is strong, empowered, survivor. You need to realize that. I think that your words here today and what you wrote will help you get out of bed and begin a real healing process.
Early on in what you said, and is a common thread with everyone, every survivor had gone to defendant thinking he was some kind of hero. He is not a hero. Each survivor is a heroine, is super woman for going through this, for looking past it, for talking about it, for joining together.
And Victim 10 mentions that she’s talking in front of strangers. I want to assure her she’s not. It’s a courtroom, a listening community of survivors, of caring individuals who are happy to help her and to watch her get out of bed and be part of her marriage and the community. Speaking out I’m hopeful will mend her. It certainly sounds like she’s on that path.
She talks about being paralyzed, being a paralyzed person. A paralyzed person could not have written that thought note — thoughtful statement.
She is no longer paralyzed. Victim 10, you’re productive. We see it and want you to look past what you could have or should have done. You’re valuable. You have a strong voice and you stand united out of bed with your sister survivors. Thank you for being part of this process.