My head was spinning. Is this supposed to be happening, I thought? Something isn't right. Can I get an infection from this? I guess not. He has to know what he's doing, he's a doctor.
date of testimony: January 18th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
Yeah. Your Honor, thank you so much for letting me speak today. I have been in the courtroom all week, and I know you mentioned this is just your job, but there’s a difference between doing your job and doing it extraordinarily. You are helping all of us to heal with your words to each of us.
Once again — one thing I realized this week is it is okay if I didn’t include all of my feelings into this statement I’ve written because all of these strong women have spoken them at some point this week and you are helping all of us, even the people who aren’t here, begin to heal. I can’t thank you enough for that.
As I sit down here to write this tonight all I can think about is how much easier it would be to not do it, to keep living my life like none of this ever happened, just like I did for five years between my senior year of college and September 13, 2016. However, it’s time for me to move on, and this is how I’m going to start.
I fell in love with the sport of gymnastics when I was three and competed until I was 22. Over the years I’ve been proud to call myself a gymnast, but in my senior year at Central Michigan University one doctor’s appointment permanently changed the way I think about the sport I dedicated so much of my life to.
To understand why, I need to tell you what happened. Throughout my gymnastics career I was relatively healthy, no broken bones or major surgeries. That changed my freshman year of college when I tore my ACL. Coming back from surgery meant I was always the backup, fighting for a spot on my college team, and pushing through the pain to do so.
After my knee surgery I began having severe muscle spasms and low back pain. After four years, my last opportunity to compete was senior night, our last home meet of the season. Since I had tried everything else to help my back pain and since Mr. Nassar was so close to CMU, many people suggested I go see him. One of my teammates was seeing him for another injury and she called to ask if I could tag along to her appointment. Nassar agreed.
My first appointment with Mr. Nassar went really well. I felt so lucky that the same man working with the Olympians made time for me. When I arrived that day he knew exactly who I was. He knew the gymnastics club I attended, that I hadn’t really competed in college and why. He made me feel just as important as anyone else. Even better, his x-ray and assessment gave me a clear diagnosis. I was so glad to finally be able to tell my coaches and teammates why I was in so much pain that I carried around my medical records and x-rays from my visit.
It was what happened at the next appointment that I never saw coming. It was gymnastics season so my schedule was crazy but Nassar’s office was nice enough to fit me in at the end of the day. I drove an hour from Mt. Pleasant to this appointment by myself and everything just seemed to go as it had before.
It wasn’t until one of the office staff members entered the exam room to tell Nassar she was leaving for the evening that I thought, that’s odd. I wonder if all his staff let them know when they have to leave. It wasn’t until later that I realized this meant I was completely alone in the office with him. I wish I would have realized sooner.
Not long after, Nassar informed me there were other things he could do to make the myofascial release and massage he was performing on my upper legs less painful. He told me it was a little invasive. I had no idea this meant he would be inserting his fingers into the most private areas of my body.
My head was spinning. Is this supposed to be happening, I thought? Something isn’t right. Can I get an infection from this? I guess not. He has to know what he’s doing, he’s a doctor.
When the appointment was over he asked if I was feeling better. I wasn’t sure how to answer because I wasn’t sure what had just happened. I went to exit back towards the lobby where I had entered, all of the lights and the entire office were off and he said, you can just go out this side door. I remember walking down a back stairwell feeling mortified and dirty. I called my mom while I walked to the car and just — as I usually do when I’m walking alone after dark. I told her about the appointment and right away she knew something didn’t sound right, but I defended him. He explained why he was doing it. I don’t want to talk about it. We fought as I drove.
When I got back to campus I asked a teammate if Larry, as she called him, had ever done anything similar to her. She said he wasn’t a bit shy and had to do the same thing to her for another type of injury. I was able to convince myself what happened was a legitimate medical treatment. I never told anyone else, but the feeling of wrongdoing haunted my mom.
Five years later in January of 2016 she shared what happened with who I considered to be my second parents, my club gymnastics coaches. Suddenly a new set of hard conversations began. Once again, I defended Mr. Nassar and rationalized what happened.
I was now newly engaged and had to tell my soon to be husband what was going on. I’ll never forget the look on his face that day. He knew, just like my mom and coaches had known, something was off.
I am so greatful for the bravery of Rachael Denhollander which brought Mr. Nassar’s disgusting actions to light and all of the other women who have come forward to form this army against him. It has given me the strength I didn’t have back then.
Although it was only a day or two before I spoke to the police after Rachael’s interview, the guilt that I didn’t say something years earlier will never go away. I was older. I should have trusted my gut, but then I think back to all the conversations I had once everything initially came out and I know why I was so afraid. Even when there were so many people making accusations, many still defended his actions. There was a different skeptical tone in the voices of people within the gymnastics community when I told them what happened.
The year and four months since the defendant’s arrest have been some of the happiest and toughest days of my life. On September 13, 2016, I was just two months into a brand new job with all new co-workers. Can you imagine being surrounded by people you barely know coming to the realization that you were sexually assaulted and manipulated? Walking around your new office with puffy eyes with everyone asking if you’re okay? Having to tell your brand new boss why you were an emotional wreck because you’re staring at the computer with your mind in flashbacks a million miles away. How every time something small gets brought up, you feel consumed remembering all of the details and overcome with feelings?
Can you imagine planning your wedding and being nervous to share your hometown with your future in-laws only to have them ask during the trip, have you seen all the stuff about that doctor on the news? Do you think he did it? Because they’re just trying to make conversation with you, not knowing that you know he did.
Can you imagine days before your wedding waking up to your mom yelling throughout the house because one of the Olympians bravely shared her story and it’s all over the news and instantly you’re consumed with your feelings again. Can you imagine preparing to leave for your honeymoon only to get a call telling you that while you’re out of town the man that violated will plead guilty but won’t be prosecuted for what he did to you? These have been some of the highs and lows in my life over the past year and four months.
I have so many more wonderful things to come in my life and this ends the defendant’s cloud over them. Today I ask that for the rest of Larry Nassar’s life, by receiving the maximum sentence possible, he thinks about how he changed all of ours, because I’m not pretending it didn’t happen anymore. I’m just moving past it. Thank you.
THE COURT: And you just took a huge step to move past it. You are strong. You’re not afraid anymore. And I love your comment about Rachael, because it just takes one voice, one voice to reveal crime of any kind. And you all stand united saying no more, and not just against this defendant but for all women, and that’s one of the reasons I appreciate your comments thanking me and all of those, but really I’m hoping that other judges allow extra victims.
As you said, there’s not going to be a prosecution in your case, but ultimately it’s a global resolution, and you matter. You and all the other voices matter, and that’s why I’m allowing it, and I’m hoping that this will become normal. I have to say it’s normal in my courtroom, not just on this case. I think people think it’s just on this case, but if you sat in my courtroom, I always allow victims, their families to talk, and, by the way, I do the same for defendants because that’s important too. The families of defendants get affected and, of course, defendant will have an opportunity to speak.
I don’t know if he will, but it’s really important that word spreads for all types of crimes but especially those against minors, so you are part of this strong army, as you’ve all called yourselves. I think you’re all super heroes with Rachael being your leader. But you’re not afraid. You’re one very strong voice, and you’re also individual voices who go out there in the world and will continue to speak.
You don’t have anything to be ashamed of or afraid of or crying about anymore. Leave it all here and go out and be happy, because that’s what you want and that’s what you deserve, so thank you so much for being here.
MS. URSCH: Thank you.