date of testimony: January 22th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
age at first abuse: 13
statement read by court official Ms Snyder
I never was an Olympian, never made the national team, but I was a junior international elite gymnast and all my fellow gymnastic friends out there know how much time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears it takes to get there.
My teammate was a two-time Olympian and I so admired everything about her, including how she came into the gym and even on the toughest days suffered in silence. She never once talked back to her coaches and every day I watched her get better and better. I watched her compete in those two Olympics and celebrated her victories. I so badly wanted to do the same.
I would like to tell one story in particular that pieces everything together. I was 13 years old. My teammate was training for the 2000 Olympic games and I was training alongside her. We were lucky to have one of the top USAG coaches come and spend a couple days with her to help her get ready. I remember being terrified of this woman and was told I was privileged to get her to even look at my vaults. Unfortunately, I had severely pulled my hamstring a few weeks before this and was having trouble running down the vault runway. I am not sure why my coaches put me in this situation in the first place because they knew I wasn’t able to run, but that’s beside the point. I am sure they were thinking her insight would only help me.
Well, as I pushed through the excruciating pain just to impress this woman, she proceeded to yell at me and shamed me for not being tough enough to fight through the pain. She said that I would never make the national team if I didn’t toughen up. I remember standing in front of her crying while my other two coaches just stood there witnessing this.
This led me to Classics of 2000. It is a huge competition. One of the most important ones of my life, in fact. My hamstring was still hurt and this was the competition that would allow me to qualify for the U.S. Championships and quite possibly make the U.S. National team.
I remember I was nervous and excited, ready to prove myself. My coach was watching me warm up on floor and said my leap pass was still not getting 180 degrees split. I said to her, I can’t. It feels like my hamstring is going to rip from my bone. She said, Okay, I’m going to find Larry. Maybe he can squeeze you in before competition.
She promptly came back with a huge smile of victory on her face, come on, let’s go, he’s able to see you now really quick. I remember feeling super stoked that the USA Olympic doctor, they so-called a miracle worker, would find the time to see me and help fix my hamstring. Both of my coaches followed me to the tiny room he had set up off the arena with curtains containing the space for privacy. He then turned to my male coach and said something along the lines of, I’m going to have to ask you to leave because it would be inappropriate for you to be in here while I work on such sensitive areas.
Well, that should have been a red flag, but, again, we all had complete trust in our coaches and this doctor so it didn’t even cross my mind. In fact, that made me more assured that I was in safe hands.
My female coach remained in the room and chatted with Larry about how the Olympic teammate of mine was doing, et cetera, et cetera. I cannot remember exactly because I was too focused on the fact that this man had just pulled my leotard to the side and inserted his fingers into my vagina. No warning, no consent, just going along as if this was totally normal. I remember holding my breath, paralyzed with discomfort and embarrassment. I did not at the time think he was molesting me, just that this procedure was awful.
I don’t want to make this too long, and, trust me, I could go on and on about the culture of gymnastics and other enablers, but the point I’m trying to make is that I was a little girl who was boldly told that I was not tough enough, so you can understand why I would so eagerly and gratefully rush into a miracle doctor’s office to receive any treatment, no matter how embarrassing and violating it was, in order to be relieved of the pain so I could hopefully one day be as lucky as my Olympic teammate.
Larry knew that my female coach trusted him completely because he used to work on her neck spasms and would work wonders on her. He knew she trusted him because she went to the ’96 Olympics with her and she thought of him as a friend. He knew this and was bold enough to do this to me with her right there in this tiny little space.
As an adult now with two babies, one just four months old, it is difficult for me to sleep at night having flashbacks to that day. It is clearer now than it was on that day that it occurred because I know now what he was really doing and it makes me sick.
This last year I was diagnosed with PTSD which I am working developing coping skills for, but it has been especially hard dealing with a newborn through this all, but I can honestly say that watching these women gain their power back has given me strength to regain mine, and for once in my life I can say, USAG and Larry Nassar, I am tough enough. It’s you that are weak by preying on and degrading young children.
THE COURT: Thank you. I heard her point.
I understand. I believe her. She is tough to have written that letter. Those words are powerful. And I have every confidence she will heal.