date of testimony: January 22th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
age of abuse: 14
First I want to thank you.
There’s a lot I can say about my time as gymnast. I fell in love with the sport the day I stepped foot in the gym. My parents did everything they could to feed my hunger to be the best.
Around age eight I started begging my parents to take me to Twistars. It was where all of the best gymnasts were, and it’s where I needed to be, too. After a bout of tears and a lot of promises to keep up my work in school, they caved. They drove me an hour and a half each way to practice after school four days a week and early on Saturday mornings.
After a year of this my family decided to move closer just for me to be closer to the gym. This meant now at nine years old I had to make new friends at a new school that was twice as big as the one from where I was from. I had a hard time adjusting so I dug in even harder at the gym. This is where I met Larry Nassar.
I remember the first time very vividly. I was learning a new dismount on bars, I peeled. I had given myself a black eye and a bloody nose. My coach, after telling me what a fool I looked like, had me sit in over-splits with blood running down my face. He had a teammate grab paper towel and ice. It was through my tears, blood, and chalk that I saw him walking towards me. He said, well, it looks like I showed up just in time.
He helped me up and he led me to the back room. He helped me wash off my face. He told me everything would be okay. He hugged me. He comforted me. He told me not to pay attention to the yelling from my coach.
Lucky for me this is where this encounter ended that day because there was already a list of girls who had put their names on the sign-up sheet to see him that night. I wonder now if when those doors closed he abused them?
I saw his face in the gym for years. He treated my friends. He laughed with all of us. He made us trust him. He was our safe haven to turn to when things got bad.
Flash forward to the age of 14, I quit gymnastics. I had a new passion for pole vaulting.
I took a weird fall and my back was hurting pretty bad. You see, that faithful day when I met him I was so scared of my coaching and disappointing them that I never told anyone that my back had hit the side ball of the pit. I was pretty sure my tailbone broke that day. I went to his office at MSU thinking I’m not a gymnast anymore but God I hope he remembers me.
He was my hero. I wanted to be just like him. It was at this appointment that he violated me. He told my mom that this procedure would relieve pressure around my tailbone. They had a conversation. I could not tell you a thing that was said. I had my eyes squeezed so tight that they hurt all while I thought it may hurt now but he’s a doctor, a God, he knows what he’s doing, just suck it up.
After this internal manipulation he told me to stand and bend over so that he could check my alignment. His body pressed against mine as he bent over to feel up and down my spine.
Now I am 26. I have seen doctors for many things, including having my two beautiful children. I have never had a doctor make sure that their body was so close to mine.
I would like to speak to Larry
I want you to know that this medical procedure, it did not help. I told my mom that it did just so that you never had to touch me and I didn’t have to come back. I scheduled my appointments with other doctors at MSU for other injuries. I was ashamed, although I’m not quite sure what I was ashamed for.
It was not until recently that I put two and two together. You abused me. You violated my body. You made me feel emotions that no 14 year old should ever have to feel.
Yet, I idolized you. The rest of the world idolized you. I grew up and I married the love of my life. You congratulated me on social media. I have two children, a little boy and girl, and you told me they were beautiful. You liked pictures of my children on social media.
In 2014 my husband got hurt at work. He needed surgery and immediately I asked you for help. I was so enamored because you still cared. How pathetic was I?
When news broke about you I could not believe it. I would not believe it. I laughed it off. But then I started coming to terms. You were, in fact, the monster that they said you were. You came up too many times in conversation between my husband’s co-workers. They protect people from monsters like you. I sat quietly. Your face was plastered everywhere and it still is, and I retreated into my mind.
My children and my husband have gotten less than my best this past year. I have been moody. I haven’t wanted to be touched. The things that make me happy barely made me snap to reality this last year, but that ends today.
I have wavered back and forth about giving a statement for a lot of reasons; denial, fear, and shame, but ultimately this is for me. This is my closure. How would I ever be able to look my two beautiful children in their faces and tell them to speak the truth even when it hurts and not stand here? In order to advocate for them and for future generations, I need to stand here. Even when my voice cracks, it will be heard. I may not be an Olympian or a Big Ten athlete, but I have a voice.
My voice will be the voice for the voiceless, the ones who were let down by institutions like USAG and MSU, the ones that are too afraid to speak or have not yet come forward. Whether we were abused one time or a hundred times, it’s never okay. I will not stop speaking until I am heard, until we are heard, and things have changed.
Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, she had not known the weight until she felt the freedom. And today right now this is my freedom. Thank you.
THE COURT: Thank you. Ma’am, your defendant idol is taking down by your words, by the words encouraged of you and your sister survivors. You are part of protecting all of our children. Your voice may have cracked but your spirit is whole, and you are not cracked. You are whole, strong, and everything good. Your words echoed around the world, and you’re not just protecting your own children but all of our children, and I want to thank you for doing that. You’ve done your best today. You are helping defendant face his reality. You faced him and you have nothing to fear anymore. You are a tower of strength, and I see how proud, not just everybody in back of you is, but your husband.
Thank you for being here and speaking with me. I’ve heard what you have to say and I will take it into account at sentencing. I’m proud of you, ma’am. Thank you.
MS. SMITH: Thank you.
THE COURT: Thank you.
THE COURT: While everybody is here, I know earlier we had a survivor talk about defense counsel, and it’s come to my attention — and that’s okay.
It’s perfectly fine. You all can have your opinions, but let me just say that our constitution, Sixth Amendment, provides counsel for all defendants, and these attorneys have all worked very well together. The Attorney General’s office, defendant’s attorney team and come to this resolution.
As attorneys we never get to pick our clients. Sometimes we just have to take on a client and make sure that they have the best representation regardless of what they’ve done, and you can say, well, they didn’t have to take the client.
Well, it’s really about the best resolution for everyone, including defendant, including the victims, and I think that’s what’s happened here today, and most important, part of that resolution was that they honored my request to allow all victims speak. They didn’t have to do that. I would have done it anyway, but by agreeing, it’s one of those things that are most likely not appealable, and even if it is, I doubt the Court of Appeals would pay attention to that. I don’t know what they’ll do. But I’m going to ask something difficult for some of you, and that is, to just respect counsel for both sides without heckling, without following them through the parking lot, or any of the things that are occurring outside of my presence. This has been really the most respectful procedure I’ve had with so many people and I really want to keep it that way, and I want to thank you in advance for that.