Trust is essential. I trusted Doctor Nassar and he violated my trust. I also trusted Michigan State University to provide a clinically and psychologically safe doctor. I continue to feel the ramifications of this experience today.
date of testimony: January 18th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
date of first abuse: 2000
age of first abuse: early 20s
This letter is an impact statement regarding the treatment of myself, who is a sexual assault victim of Doctor Larry Nassar and Michigan State University of their disgraceful negligence.
As I stated above, I am a previous patient of Doctor Nassar. I was a patient of Doctor Nassar at MSU Sports Medicine office starting approximately around the year of 2000 to treat an unknown specific injury located in my right hip. At that time I was a student. I had — I was in my young 20s.
Doctor Nassar was recommended to me as he was the most knowledgeable and prominent physician for sports related injuries.
Michigan State University was also known as a reputable option for sports related injury rehabilitation. Therefore, being a patient of Doctor Nassar at MSU Sports Medicine Clinic seemed like a wise and natural choice.
At the time I was searching for answers to alleviate my physical pain, preferably without surgery. I thoroughly believed that Doctor Nassar, with his reputation as a world-renowned sports physician, coupled with Michigan State University’s reputation at the time for top care of osteopathic care, I was headed in a positive direction to receive the best care possible.
My first visit with Doctor Nassar appeared normal. When I met him he was charming and confident. He was friendly and jovial. He asked about my life as a dancer. He appeared to be interested in me and my life, and he was very supportive. He made me feel comfortable. He acted like he genuinely wanted to help me be able to dance again. He was compassionate so I decided to trust him. He assured me we would figure out what was wrong.
I could see his Olympic pictures in the exam room. I can still see those today. He mentioned them and referenced them. He adjusted my back and my hip. It seemed like a normal visit, and we would soon get to the bottom of what was medically wrong.
After the initial visit I felt confident that he would be able to help me finally figure out what was my pain and where it was coming from. That was only the beginning.
In September of 2016 reports began to surface regarding Doctor Nassar’s sexual assault. I could not believe that I was — what I was seeing because I was one of his patients. Articles explained the charges against him and described the treatments and sexual abuse. As the reports continued to surface he resonated so deeply that I felt nauseous and had trouble sleeping. I started to recognize that I, too, was a sexual assault victim of Doctor Nassar and Michigan State University. I started having flashbacks of my care under his treatments. I have continuously felt disgust and shame and anger because I trusted him and he took advantage of me.
Your Honor, for many years I blamed myself and I pushed it down, and I know no longer that’s not the case.
Below is a flashback, an embarrassing memory. It pains me to share it with you, yet I feel I need to share it to explain the inner turmoil that goes on when one’s realization that you are labeled — or now a label of sexual abuse and a victim, something I thought I’d never identify with.
At one of the visits Doctor Nassar convinced me to try a new method. As I noted before, I was looking for a non-surgical treatment to alleviate the pain I was experiencing from my injury in my right hip. The pain was constant and I needed relief. Doctor Nassar asked if I would consider a new treatment. I agreed. I was in pain. I wanted answers, and so I said yes.
Before I could ask any questions he started to adjust my hip and he slipped his fingers into my pants and he penetrated me. I was shocked. I was not briefed that this was the method of treatment.
There was an awkward silence. I started to question him and he assured me that this was the new treatment and a few of these treatments would alleviate my pain.
He did not talk and there was an awkward stillness. I was frozen trying to figure out how I ended up having a pelvic exam for hip pain. I was young, naive. I had not had relations with a man, yet he urged me to trust him.
When he was finished he slid out his hand, which did not have any gloves on, and he proceeded to wash his hands.
It made me feel dirty. There was no nurse in the room as I was left alone, alone trying to figure out what happened. I left feeling pressured not to question his method of treatment. After all, this is the doctor whom I trusted. I was supposed to trust him. He urged me to trust him. He was the doctor and I was the patient.
Looking back, how was this treatment meant to help my pain? Reproductive organs are not located next to the hip socket. Every time I think of what happened I feel sick to my stomach. I have vivid flashbacks and I’m left feeling angry. I have grappled with this and have felt betrayed and confused. I agreed to his treatment, yes, but under the guise of his medical knowledge.
His persuasive personality pressured me into thinking that this was a medically common practice procedure and that this was necessary for pain relief. He was the expert. He assaulted me under the cover of his medical professional status. This treatment never alleviated my pain. It just caused more psychological pain and shame.
I share this with you for the following reasons. Foremost, that I’m angry that Doctor Nassar used me for his personal devious intentions. He did not in actuality try to alleviate my pain. Why would a doctor do a gynecological pelvic exam to figure out hip joint socket pain? Instead, he assaulted me and covered it up in a conniving, manipulative way that made me feel as if this method was protocol. I trusted him and I put my trust in his expertise.
Vivid memories of his treatments continue to replay in my mind. It is something I cannot erase.
In addition, after seeing Doctor Nassar doctors did not believe me for years. One doctor thought I was imagining my pain. I continued to feel aggravated that it was constant and wouldn’t go away. Once — I once was an active and healthy young woman.
Since this injury I have had hip reconstruction surgery — at the age of 25, I might add — and will need a hip replacement soon within the next five years.
I have presently worn down the cartilage in my hip and have developed arthritis. I am not able to dance anymore, run, or simply move as easily as I once used to. My fitness activity is limited and I continue to live with my pain on a daily basis.
I am constantly reminded of what I once was able to do and I can no longer do. Doctor Nassar’s medical choices did not find a valid diagnosis for my pain and his choice to assault me led me to years of continued physical and psychological pain. I now recognize that.
It was not until 2005 that I was able to get a clear and concise diagnosis after many trips to doctors’ offices, x-rays and chiropractic care.
A competent surgeon ordered a simple procedure and we had a diagnosis, something that could have been done under Doctor Nassar’s care. I’m reminded of the physical pain and this pain daily in my life. It upsets me also that Michigan State did not have a nurse present in the room with a female patient. If there was a question of his misbehavior and he was put on probation, why didn’t he have a nurse present? At most female checkups doctors ask if a woman would like to have a nurse present. I find it uncalled for that a university that touts itself as a prominent health care provider would not have such a protocol in place to protect its patients and its doctors alike.
Moreover, I am extremely angry at Michigan State University and the MSU Sports Medicine Department. Since the time of the September 2016 news article it has come to light that Michigan State University knew about Doctor Nassar’s behavior from previous report incidents — reported incidents.
Michigan State did nothing to remove Doctor Nassar even though they knew that he was a doctor with a questionable past.
At the time I saw him as a patient he had already had complaints about his behavior. Had I known that he had a history of sexual assault I would not have put myself in a position to be treated by him. I hold Michigan State responsible for enabling Doctor Nassar’s behavior, covering up what he did, and find it morally wrong that they have tried to ignore reports of misconduct. They knew about his questionable past. This is shameful negligence on the part of Michigan State University and the sports medicine department, and to many other women such as myself who were assaulted and pressured into believing that the method of treatment was normal. His treatment was not normal and it should never have happened.
We paid the price. I paid the price, years of pain and mistrust of doctors to seek relief from physical pain only to become a victim of sexual assault. Justice will not be attained until Doctor Nassar is sentenced to the highest extent of the law as well as the people who enabled him and allowed him to continue practicing medicine. Instead of treating my pain effectively, Michigan State University enabled a sexual predator to examine and assault me.
I close with the following thoughts. Trust is essential. I trusted Doctor Nassar and he violated my trust. I also trusted Michigan State University to provide a clinically and psychologically safe doctor. I continue to feel the ramifications of this experience today. I am adamant about voicing the need for nurses present when being examined. I distrust male doctors, and that’s after having five children, two of them who have passed away.
I also feel disgust for Michigan State University as an alumni and as a patient. Michigan State has not taken responsibility for enabling sexual — a sexual predator from continuing to practice. I need Michigan State University to accept responsibility for their actions.
I now know that I am, unfortunately, not the only one to have been assaulted by Doctor Nassar. Michigan State University should be held accountable as generations of future young women will come into their sports medicine department and put their trust in safe doctors, or whom they think are safe.
I hope and pray that my beautiful daughters will never have to experience this type of abuse at the hands of a doctor that they trust.
I seek justice for other women to hold universities, medical establishments, and those that practice medicine accountable. Misconduct that is covered up only breeds complacency. Complacency then in turn allows for situations that become ripe for misconduct.
Please help make things right. Protect young women who have placed their trust in professionals who they think are safe. Send a message of extreme consequence for the absence of negligence practiced by Doctor Nassar and the enablers at Michigan State University, because everyone deserves a doctor that they trust.
THE COURT: Thank you for those wonderful words. Ma’am, first and foremost, I’m sorry for the loss of your children.
VICTIM 136: Thank you.
THE COURT: I’m sure they’re here with you now, and no one should lose children.
VICTIM 136: Yeah, thanks.
THE COURT: But also no one in a position of trust should violate children, you, your sister, any of the other victims. You are all survivors, and the importance of your voice, not just in asking me for justice, I will do justice within the limits of the plea agreement, I know you all know about that –
VICTIM 136: I have one more thing to add. It wasn’t until recently that I knew that we shared this experience with each other and I — the cultural taboo and the shame of not talking about these issues I think suppressed it, and I just wish that it was open, and I thank you for this opportunity to bring it to light so that — you know, as sisters we shouldn’t have experienced that and have this shared commonality, but no one should.
THE COURT: You’re right, no one should, and there is that taboo, so much so that two sisters couldn’t talk about it, didn’t think about talking about it.
VICTIM 136: Right.
THE COURT: That is heartbreaking, because you should be able to share something like this.
VICTIM 136: Um-hum.
THE COURT: Answer a question about it with your sister. You obviously are close, probably the closest people to each other, and it’s something that you should have been able to talk about, but that taboo has got to stop. It stops with you. It stops with your sister survivors —
VICTIM 136: Right.
THE COURT: — victims as well, so I appreciate your words and pointing that out and being here together united. Your voice stops enablers.
Knowledge is power and your voices, your voice, your sister’s voice is powerful, and no longer will these practices be allowed because the two of you have spoken out along with the other survivors and so these practices — what you’ve asked for, ma’am, is change.
VICTIM 136: Um-hum.
THE COURT: As well as justice.
VICTIM 136: Um-hum.
THE COURT: Justice will happen here and in other courts.
VICTIM 136: Um-hum.
THE COURT: The change comes from your loud voices and your confidence today. You shouldn’t feel disgust, shame, or anger. The anger I understand, it may not go away, but I’m talking about the anger or disgust or shame against yourself.
You two have nothing to feel shameful or guilty about. It is all on defendant.
I said this yesterday, I don’t know if you were listening, I don’t know who’s heard what, but, ma’am, both of you, if I could order you to be reborn and clean I would so order it, for whatever that’s worth, because there is nothing that you did wrong. You didn’t have control. It’s not wrong to believe our doctors. Our doctors are healers and so you didn’t think that you were going to be abused. It was the farthest thing from your mind. You wanted to be healed.
VICTIM 136: Correct.
THE COURT: So take the blame, leave it here with him. Enjoy your life with your family and your children.
We’ve heard — this court has heard your strong voices. You are very strong women, and I know together as biological sisters you’re going to keep getting stronger in helping each other out, but there’s a whole sea of survivor victims who you’re all helping each other, and it’s so tremendous. You are survivors, and I thank you both for being here, your strong voices.
VICTIM 136: Thank you.