date of testimony: January 19th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
age of first abuse: 12
First, I would like to thank you for allowing not only me but every other survivor of Larry Nassar speak their truth and have their voices heard.
Your Honor, I started and restarted this impact statement multiple times. That was because I never really knew where to begin. I also feel that Larry Nassar doesn’t deserve to know how I’ve been impacted. He doesn’t need to deserve to know anything about me, my life anymore. But this letter isn’t for him. It’s for you, Judge Aquilina.
It is to show you the gravity of his actions and who I am now because of them. This is why I chose today — chose to be here today and chose to read this letter myself in front of everyone.
I still don’t know where to really start this. Everything about this whole situation is chaotic and messy and my thoughts are never really clear. It feels like I have so much to say about everything but yet nothing at the same time.
My mind can’t really focus on what Larry Nassar did for too long because it seems like it will be just too much if I do.
I thought I knew Nassar. We all thought we did. When I was 16 I job shadowed him in high school. He was the reason I was so interested in the medical field and specializing in sports medicine.
He was the reason I wanted to help gymnasts in the future. When I was still thinking of becoming a doctor I thought it would be the most amazing thing in the world to somehow have him as a mentor. Now I know how wrong all of his intentions were.
The first time I stepped into one of the two exam rooms Larry Nassar had at MSU Sports Medicine I was 12. The last time it was in June of 2016, making me 24. That’s 12 years of knowing him and one-half of my life being treated by him.
He had a reputation for being one of the best gymnastics sports medicine doctors in the world, and for him to be located so close to where I lived seemed like the best luck ever. It was only when I reflected on that very first report by Rachael Denhollander that I began to put the pieces together. Larry Nassar was not treating me but using me. He was not the best gymnastics sports medicine doctor, he misused his role of power in order to abuse dedicated and hard working athletes. I don’t even consider him to be a doctor anymore because a true doctor cares for their patients’ well-being while he narcissistically manipulated his.
In Nassar’s exam rooms there were pictures, letters, and gifts dedicated to him from his patients and thanks of how much he helped them. I always loved walking around the room and reading them, trying to find out the newest things. Now I see these were all just trophies to him. He got to see every day how he manipulated people while we had no idea what was going on.
He gave me a pin from one of the Olympics he attended. It made me feel so special at the time.
I had it sitting out on my desk and always noticed it whenever I walked by. Now it makes me feel sick. He wanted me to feel special. He wanted me to feel like he really cared because that’s what a person like him does.
He would always ask about my family and how they were doing as well as sharing how his family was doing. He would call me goof or My Ashley sometimes and I thought it was out of care and kindness. Now I see how wrong all of that was and how he manipulated me into thinking he actually cared.
I also look back seeing how unnecessary his actions were. There were times when he would go through his routine but without penetration and I would still feel better. It only clicked with me after all the news reports how he never should have had to use penetration in the first place if I was able to feel better without it. It also makes sense how he used distractions, never really let me think about what he was doing. He would hold a conversation with me for the entirety of the visit so that I would have something to focus on. He used his personal life and his family to make it seem as if he actually cared and would ask about mine as well.
It’s difficult to say how his actions have fully impacted me. I think that’s because I still haven’t completely processed everything. Part of me wants to believe that this is all just some horrible nightmare and everything is okay. The other part knows that that’s what grooming does to you, makes you second-guess yourself and question reality. It makes you want to feel sympathy toward your assaulter.
Because I was groomed for so long starting at such a young age, this whole ordeal is still something I struggle with. There is one part of me that when hearing the other girls’ stories of how he made them feel special has actually made me feel hurt. I know that this reaction is a result of what he did to me. However, there’s another part of me that knows I’m a part of this community of strong and powerful, beautiful, courageous women.
In the very beginning of all of this it was difficult to think that he was capable of being this type of person, a monster. My mind fully rejected the thought in the beginning and for a long time, despite eventually acknowledging the situation, I disassociated myself from being a part of it. I’m slowly accepting everything for what it is and working on seeing the monster that he is. That is also why I chose to be here today.
The last time I saw Larry he was still this well renowned doctor who knew how to help me with my back pain. I was sad that I wasn’t going to be treated by him anymore. The mental image I still have is a positive one. I needed to be here today so that I can change that. I need to see what my new reality is. I need to change 12 years worth of knowing a person and feeling — and feeling that I could trust them completely.
I have been in therapy every week for the past year plus now trying to learn coping skills for my fears and learning to trust myself and instincts again.
In the past I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts with no explanation. This was prior to understanding what Nassar had been really doing to me. I still struggle with anxiety and depression, and although I have yet to completely accept all the events that have happened this past year, I do have these moments where reality hits me and it hits hard. I feel like I can’t breathe. I can’t think straight, and everything feels upside down.
And this is something my family has to deal with. Sorry. They have to watch me have these breakdowns, and I know it hurts them because there’s nothing they can really do to help. I have to work through them on my own. My brain has to — my brain has to process the magnitude of the situation.
I still try to keep my breakdowns private so that my family doesn’t have to suffer the consequences of Nassar’s actions, but I remember one breakdown in particular.
Okay. I had a complete moment of clarity and understanding who Nassar really is and what he’s done and I ran into my parents’ room sobbing out of control. I remember grabbing my head and banging it on the bed trying to get the thoughts out. I also remember vaguely hearing my parents in the background trying to calm me down. It took a while but I managed to calm down with their help and sleeping in their bed for the rest of the night. That is something a 25 year old shouldn’t have to do, sleep in their parents’ bed because they’re afraid of the monster, but it’s happened more than once now, and, to be honest, I’m not sure when it will stop.
Another thing that’s affected me is how I view doctors. I’m very picky about what doctor I see, and that’s because I was born with an autoinflammatory disease. Larry Nassar used to be one of my favorite doctors. It always seemed like he was trying to help my disease, make it better, and I was so grateful for that. Now I know this was a part of his manipulation. I never knew — I’ll never know if he truly cared about my disease or my health or if it was all just a facade in order to get me to see him again.
Now when I see doctors I can’t help but second-guess their intentions, and I’m never alone with them. I need someone there with me in order to feel comfortable and safe. This is also something a 25 year old shouldn’t have to do.
Right now because of all of this I don’t trust males at all. Apart from my immediate family and only a few select friends, I don’t want to have any interaction with them. I don’t like them being near me. I don’t like having to talk to them, and the thought of ever being in a relationship right now makes me feel nauseated. This response might seem extreme, but I can’t seem to help it right now. My anxiety skyrockets whenever I have to interact with a guy.
My anxiety seems to have worsened in general. Things that shouldn’t make me anxious in life now cause me worry. At times there doesn’t have to be anything going wrong for me to all of a sudden feel this heavy weight on my chest and, like, I can’t breathe. These types of attacks happen more often than I wish they did, and when I’m in that moment it seems as if it will never stop.
The hardest part about this whole thing is that I’ll never know why, why Larry Nassar did this. Why he chose to prey on children and what his fascination with gymnastics is. I’ll never know if he even cared about the health of his patients or if being a doctor was just a way to get easier access to victims. Has he always been like this, or did he become like this over time?
As someone who has their degree in psychology I will never understand why all of this happened. It’s one thing to be an outside observer to something such as this then it is to have it directly happen to you. The fact that I’ll never have answers to so many questions is something I struggle with daily. I know that accepting this fact is something that I’ll have to come to terms with, but right now I’m still confused, angry, and hurt. I think a part of me will always be with this and the feeling will just get less and less over time.
I know I’ll never be the same person that I was before I found out the truth. So much about me and the way I view life has changed; some of it good and some bad. I also know that my brain is still continuing to absorb and process all the information, and that’s okay.
One day I will have complete clarity of the person Larry Nassar is and I’ll be able to handle it. I know my breakdowns and anxiety attacks are temporary. I know that even though sometimes — sometimes I just want to give in and hide away from everyone, I’m stronger than what happened to me. I refuse to let a monster control the rest of my life, so even if my voice has been shaking this entire time or I’ve started to cry, it doesn’t matter, I am here standing on my own two feet in front of my assaulter, and I hope he and everyone else in this room knows who will win this battle in the end. Thank you.
THE COURT: You and your sister survivors have won it. Rachael started it. You are all winning. All of us judges have heard you. I hear you in regard to sentencing. We can’t make sense of crime. Your why will not be answered.
MS. YOST: I know.
THE COURT: I think that’s okay with you. You are in control. You proved that here today. You need to leave your anxiety here and live your life.
There’s nothing confusing about what you’ve said. You said in what you read is that you’re confused. You’re not confused. You have clarity. You got that as you were writing that, I think, and as you stand her publicly and knowledge that you are strong, that you are able to face him and what he did, you are helping heal not just yourself but countless others and making others strong with your words. That counts for so much.
I’ve heard you. I will do the right thing, I hope. Maybe not everybody will agree with it, that’s my decision to make, but you and your sister survivors have been and will be a part of all of that. Stand tall, keep talking. You are in control.
MS. YOST: Thank you.