date of testimony: January 23th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
Your Honor, thank you for your patience and guidance through this process. We are all processing this as best we can, and you allowing each of us to stand strong to speak the truth and to put the shame, guilt, and confusion behind us has only made us more resilient.
Larry, on September 16, 2016, I sent you a message of support. This message went against everything I now stand for and believe in but at the time was my way of justifying your abuse and not having to say the words, me too. But not any more.
For ten years you seemed to have all the answers to my problems. My optimistic and naive self only saw you as perfect. You wanted to know my whole story, not just the injury I came in with. You were a healer, both mentally and physically.
When I look at you now I still see this person. However, the difference is I’ve learned that identifying the manipulation strategies of an abuser is harder than I thought. They’re different than in the movies. They don’t wear masks or lurk around every corner. In fact, they can stand directly in front of you hiding behind jeans, a T-shirt, and glasses, just like you.
Throughout my years in the sport I faced more injuries than most people double my age yet I had one glimpse of hope; you, Larry. You were supposed to be the good guy but instead you used your power, your authority to take advantage of me, take away my trust and to strip me of my innocence.
Your manipulation left me unable to sleep some nights fearing if I closed my eyes I would relive the instances and blame myself for not having enough instincts to know something was wrong. Now, however, I have found the courage and realize that I am not a victim. No one here is a victim. We are all survivors.
In January 2017, my senior year, I decided that my years in the sport needed to come to an end. People asked me if he was the reason. At first I denied it. It wasn’t him, it was my injuries. But now I hold that pain and anger inside of me when realizing the reality. I did quit because of you.
It was because of your treatment along with the other many twisted normalcies of the sport that made me lose my love and passion for it.
I went to a doctor I thought I could trust to get me back on the floor, yet your treatment and referrals only led me to a darker path. I often blamed the surgeons and not you for my extra surgeries, but now I question all of it. Yes, there are multiple reasons to rationalize the fact that I ended up with repeat surgeries in both my knee and wrist, but none can hide the fact that at a critical point in my gymnastics career you referred me to a surgeon that you later admitted you had concerns about. Remember when you said you had a feeling about my surgery? Well, now I understand.
I stand here today to tell you that you cannot take anything else away from me or from my fellow survivors. I think back to a conversation I had with my brother going into my freshman year of high school. I told him I couldn’t wait to leave my hometown. I questioned why I needed a school or community like it to succeed. Now, however, more than ever I realize that a strong community is an integral part of anyone’s survival.
I joined this community of strong women and, ironically, you have motivated us to be stronger and better than you ever could be.
Now to all of us survivors. There is a song I listened to every day since the passing of my grandpa. It embodies our true journey, resilience, and power. Part of it reads, hold on, though we may be too young to know this ride we’re on, depth over distance was all I asked of you. I may be foolish to fall as I do, but there’s still strength in the blindness you fear. Just let it grow sometimes. Let it grow. Let it grow.
I will continue to listen to this song not as a reminder of you, Larry, but as a reminder of how strong I have become because of you. Although I was young and felt foolish to fall for your abusive powers, I also find strength in this community of women. It is the depth of our struggle, the depth of our pain, but also the depth of our strength. The distance between us is irrelevant. We have come to end your abuse and, in fact, we have.
Remember when you said you hold no animosity against us? Well, you don’t have that choice. I have that choice to hold no animosity against you, and I choose to embody this through my strength. I’m here to tell you that I am on the path of overcoming your manipulation and regaining my trust. I am here to take back my power and relinquish yours. From now on I decide who I become.
I will write the ending to my life story free from this darkness that you’ve created.
I have always wanted my future daughter to follow in my footsteps, emulating the careless child I once was, but now I want her to be better. I want our voices to be heard and positive changes to be made so she can prosper in her sport of choice without worrying that she would be manipulated like I once was.
Larry, it is so very sad to see how you have wasted your life and your knowledge which could have brought light upon so many others. I continue to pray for your family and for the many other victims.
Thank you again, Your Honor. This past week has made me realize that I’m not alone. I know you will consider each individual story, and I trust you will do everything it will take to protect future athletes and innocent children from this abuse.
THE COURT: Thank you so much for your words. I have heard you. You chose well. You’re very smart. You are amazing. You are powerful. And it won’t — because of your words and the words of your sister survivors, it won’t be as difficult to recognize an abuser who hides the abuse because now even trusted people — the message has been sent even when there is a trusted person, ask questions, and if they can’t answer, walk away.
You all have that similar message. It’s powerful, and from now on, I know I as a parent and I think parents around the country, people who have yet to be parents are going to teach differently. Don’t trust every single person, ask questions, because we’ve all, just like you and your family, trusted doctors, and most of them are good, as I said early, but asking those extra questions, we all need to do that, and your message has been heard. You are so strong and have a bright future, and I so applaud you for coming forward.
I know this was difficult. I see it in your face, but I’m also seeing how proud you are of yourself, and I hope you remain that way, and as you listen to that song, look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are strong and proud of yourself, and wash away the rest of this. Thank you for being here.
MS. DAYTON: Thank you.