date of testimony: January 23th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
I first want to say thank you to Judge Aquilina to listening whole-heartedly to each and every one of us. Thank you for your patience, time, and compassion.
I also want to say thank you to all of the beautiful young women who have spoken up and inspired me to come share my story as well.
Like many who have shared, I grew up in gymnastics. I remember running around the house never taking off my leotard. I always wanted to be in the gym.
As I grew I got better and better at gymnastics but my body also began to get injured much easier. I developed a nagging back pain which I put up for quite a while as that is what you do in gymnastics, you work through your pain. However, the pain worsened over time and it was recommended to me that I see a doctor who was known as the gymnastics doctor. I was told he had helped countless athletes recover from injuries and he was the best of the best. I was eager to finally address my pain so that I could get back to practicing as normal.
I remember being nervous for my first visit but excited to see this nationally recognized Olympic doctor. As you have heard, his exam room was covered in pictures of athletes and Olympians who had written him thank you notes and given him gifts. I gazed around the room admiring everything I saw.
When Larry came in he was so kind, compassionate, funny, and reassuring. All my fears were relinquished. He worked with me for a long time that day. He told me all the things that were wrong with me, scoliosis, an extra vertebrae, super tight muscles, a short left leg, the infamous weak cheerleader butt, offset hips. I was a mess.
This led to many follow-up appointments where he did all of those stereotypical Larry things. He asked about my family, called me nicknames like Kiddo, Em, goofball, my little monkey.
He made me change into those giant shorts, checked my back, massaged my muscles, reset my hips, and also did treatments that felt very awkward at the time.
He would get lubricant and spread it along my legs and exposed butt as I laid face down on the table. He would rub one hand up and down my leg and butt as the other ungloved hand penetrated me. This one without the lubricant. After this went on for a while he would go on and do the same thing on the other side. I didn’t know what he was doing but for some reason I felt tense, afraid, and exposed. He told me to relax. This would help me feel better.
He talked about how my muscles were so tight and how he had to, quote, really work on me.
Afterwards when he rechecked my back he slipped his hand under those shorts and penetrated me again as I bent down and stood back up whenever he told me to. I did this over and over as each time he would ask me if my pain felt better. It did not.
But each time he also went in further and harder so I said my pain was gone because I knew the treatment wasn’t helping. It was, in fact, painful, uncomfortable, and awkward.
This happened at almost every appointment. My innocent, naive self had no idea that what he was doing was not medical care, it was sexual abuse. He was abusing his power as a doctor to use my body for his own sexual pleasure. I now understand that to be the truth.
Before the trial I was in denial that what he did had any affect on me. I remember my doctor sitting me down a year ago and asking me if I had been assaulted by Larry. I had no idea what she was talking about. As she explained, I was filled with confusion and uneasiness. He had done that to me. Every time I saw her after that she asked how I was doing. I told her it had no affect on me. I didn’t care. I was fine. My mental problems had nothing to do with Larry. You see, I was struggling and still am with depression and anxiety but I always blamed myself for that. I thought it was my own imperfections, mistakes, ugliness, and poor social skills that made me so unhappy.
At school I was always on edge. I had horrible stress, and for a while I stopped talking while I was there. I wanted to disappear and I didn’t want any attention. The happy go lucky, social butterfly was gone. This stress, social anxiety, depression, and hopelessness followed me into high school. Despite counseling and medication, I still had a hard time.
This year has been the worst for me.
Trying to fight off thoughts of suicide and self harm has been a reoccurring battle in my head. I thought I must be insane, something had to be wrong with me. I began to lose hope and think there was no place for me in this world. I was convinced that I was simply bad at being a human being, as I often told myself.
On Thursday of last week I saw my doctor for a follow up on sleep medication to help me with my nightmares. She told me about the trial and that her own daughters were testifying. I had never read any articles, watched any videos, or asked any questions before that. I did not want to know anything. I was in denial.
But when I got home from that appointment I got on my laptop and watched all three days of the trial so far. I stayed up for hours and sat there in shock.
What I realized was that I am not an outlier. My story is so similar to many other girls. There were times where I felt like I was listening to myself. I was affected by Larry. He did hurt me, and he hurt hundreds of other young women. He took away my innocence, and that is something I will never be able to get back.
Something so precious that was created by God with the purest of intentions was completely devalued by him. I feel sick just thinking about it.
The little girl he called his favorite Fierce Five fan was, in fact, his victim. But thanks to the court I will never be victimized by him again, and I will also never let him win. I will not take my own life. I am going to take it back. While I will never get back those years of mental suffering, I want my old self back. The me I was before Larry. I want to be joyous and confident again.
May I address the defendant, please?
Larry, you made me feel so special. I looked up to you so much. You were the best in your field. Coaches and doctors praised you for your abilities. I wanted to be just like you.
You helped me heal the countless injuries I experienced in gymnastics, and not only did you help me heal, you established a relationship with me. My picture was a thank you — with a thank you note was added to your wall because I thought you were the greatest. You gave us discounts, special visits, interacted with me on social media, and gave me gifts almost every other visit. I remember the day you gave me the 2012 Olympic tea towel from London with all of the girls’ signature on it. It brought tears to my eyes. I had just been told that yet again I was sent to the sidelines and you cheered me up with a gift I truly treasured. It hung in a shadow box on my wall for years.
You used your power to get close to me.
You weren’t just a doctor, you were a trusted friend, and I think that is why I have been in denial for so long. I did not want to admit that you betrayed and deceived me. I still believed in you and had sympathy for you. How could I have been so naive? How could a person that I thought to be so genuine and kind and caring be, in fact, the opposite? I will never understand.
But now that I have said that, I want you to look at me. I believe in forgiveness, Larry. You and I are human beings. We make mistakes. Although you have hurt me, I want to forgive you and feel closure and move on to healing in my life.
I want you to apologize to me right here. I want to forgive you, but I also want to hear you tell me you regret all the hurting you caused.
THE DEFENDANT: I’m sorry about it.
MS. MORALES: Thank you.
To USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic Committee, Michigan State University, and John Geddert, I have one thing to say to you, don’t you ever let this happen again. Thank you.
THE COURT: Ma’am, I think your words will help let it never happen again and defendant should feel tense and exposed hearing the strength of your words. You are a perfect human being. What he did to you and countless survivors is nothing because it does not defeat you, it does not define you. You have grace. You have perfect, perfect social skills.
You just proved it. At 18 I promise you I could not have stood here and said with such composure what you did.
You are a fierce survivor. Your voice and strength are a gift, not only to you but to everyone and your sister survivors. Thank you so much for being here.
MS. MORALES: Thank you.