date of testimony: January 22th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
read by court official Ms Snyder
My name is Catherine Hannum, and when I was 19, I became a patient of Larry Nassar. I can’t tell you the excitement I felt to be seeing him after a year of being chronically injured and sitting out of my sport, rowing, at Michigan State University.
My teammates and the athletic staff all told me what a wonderful doctor he was. They assured me he would help me return to rowing, the thing I loved and felt most passionate about in the world.
They also told me he was a little weird, a little off, and kind of odd, but maintained he was kind and, most importantly, the best at his job. What did I care if he was a little weird? He was the best at his job.
I had lived in chronic pain for over a year. I was desperate to feel better and prove myself as a valuable member of my team.
Larry, you were not kind. You were abrasive and careless, from shamelessly ripping Spandex down, to manhandling my glutes as you manipulated and taped them with bare hands slowly pulling my right glute further and further apart exposing my anus. I flinched as I felt your fingers get dangerously close. You laughed and apologized, explaining it is an awkward area but it had to be done. It didn’t — I didn’t understand why, but someone else had been in the room, and I had heard stories like this from your other patients so I didn’t question it.
The first time it crossed my mind that there might be something really wrong with you I was receiving an adjustment for my rib. Your back was to the trainer who was leaning up against the wall scrolling through their phone waiting for the appointment to end. I honestly don’t blame them.
Who would think you would be so brazen? Before I knew what was happening, you had shoved a bare hand down my sports bra and you were massaging my breasts all while explaining this was necessary to relax the rib that had become displaced. My body felt stiff. Then out of my peripheral vision I noticed your pants. Immediately my mind started swirling. What’s wrong with you? Of course that’s not an erection. Why would you think that? You’re disgusting. Now I know I hadn’t been wrong. I only wish I had been self assured enough at the time to say something, but I was so brainwashed then.
I can tell you all now the physical aspect of this abuse is not what still haunts me. It is being brainwashed. I’ve always prided myself on being outspoken and unafraid to speak my mind. Ask anyone, they’ll probably tell you I’m too outspoken for my own good. But this, this has me questioning everything.
I couldn’t write this letter for the longest time because I kept second-guessing my experience and my own memories. Did massaging my breast on a weekly basis brazenly walking around the room with an erection and ripping my clothes down without warning or care count as abuse? I managed to go unscathed from his favorite form of torture so maybe my voice didn’t really count.
While in college three young women shared with me details, describing abuse they had experienced in appointments with Nassar. One in particular is the dearest person to me in my life. This is what haunts me daily. These thoughts follow me through my day, creep up on me at work, while I’m driving my car. I become so overwhelmed I can’t do anything but cry. All three of these women told me
it was nothing but an unfortunate treatment they had to receive due to the severity of their back pain.
To me it sounded like abuse, but their insistence that it wasn’t quelled my urge to report it as such. It hadn’t happened to me, so who was I to tell them what had happened to them?
We had all been so conditioned to believe that Larry was the best there was. There was so much pressure to perform, pressure from coaches and the pressure we put on ourselves. I know I put an immense amount of pressure on myself. I felt like an utter failure in the eyes of everyone around me.
I felt like a failure to my coach. To my teammates, I had promised them four good years of rowing and I wasn’t able to give them any due to my injuries, so I didn’t question Larry or his methods. I sought deliverance from my pain, and he gladly gave it.
Now I feel like a failure to myself. All I can think is I should have said something. Why didn’t I trust my instincts? I don’t know if and when I’ll stop second-guessing myself. Beyond the guilt I carry for letting down my friends, I can’t stand being in crowds. I become extremely anxious and alert. I am no longer able to comfortably sustain conversations with male acquaintances and strangers. I have difficulty making eye contact. I can’t even look my own father or boyfriend in the eye while trying to discuss this topic with them.
I analyze every action and gesture. Do they have ulterior motives? Are they talking to me as a person or are they looking for something else? I have been told that I can be cold and unfriendly upon first interacting with a man I’ve just met. I go for a handshake, not a hug. Larry used to hug me after my appointments. He would give me a big squeeze and rub my back. At first I thought it was strange, but then I felt bad for feeling weird about it. He seemed to care about us so much. Now there are very few men I would even remotely consider hugging.
As I continue to write this I feel incredibly trivial. The traditional side of me knows what happened to me matters and knows what I have to say is important. The other half of me thinks I sound pathetic, whiney, and attention seeking, but I’m going to keep writing and I’m going to keep talking and I’m going to keep making noise, because what he did to me, what he did to my friends and countless other women, is disgusting, vile, and wrong. I am going to find my sense of self again, and it starts with this letter.
THE COURT: She certainly is not brainwashed anymore. She remains outspoken, and she should not second-guess herself. She is a heroine, not a failure, and I want to thank her for her strength and for coming forward.