date of testimony: January 23th 2018
age at first abuse: 15
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
Initially I had chosen to remain silent. Hearing the courageous voices of my peers has given me the strength and voice to speak out and tell my story.
I met Larry Nassar in January 2002 when I was 15 and a sophomore at Okemos High School. I was young and naive with no experience of tragedy or hardship until my family was involved in a head-on car collision during Christmas break 2001. The car was instantly demolished and they had to pry us out with the jaws of life. This accident caused my mother to be hospitalized and later placed in a rehab facility for several months. Doctors fought to save her foot from amputation and she endured a lifetime of experimental surgeries to repair it. It left our family friend who had joined us for part of her Christmas break in critical, life-threatening condition with countless injuries, including spine and nerve damage that was never repaired. At one point we thought she was going to die.
I found myself in a wheelchair with a knee brace, wrist brace, and back brace due to compression fractures. Our family was referred to the famed Doctor Nassar. I was a dancer and we were told that he would be able to help me. I wanted to get back to my life and to ballet as quickly as I could. My father, who wasn’t involved in the accident, was trying to take care of me as well as be present for my mom while she was recovering in Ann Arbor. Our family was so vulnerable during this time.
Doctor Nassar was kind to me. He took the time to make me feel important, successful, and cared for at a very difficult time for my family. I gave this man my trust and I held to that trust for all of these years, never wanting to believe what I knew in my heart to be true, this man took advantage of me.
I have grown up and the waves of life and all its harshness have tossed across the edges of this pain and have rounded them. Perspective has been gained with time and made me forget much of what I felt in the moment.
When I saw Nassar’s face on the news I immediately knew. I stopped dead in my tracks and the truth came crashing down around me. This happened to me. This man inappropriately touched me, and it was wrong.
Sometimes reality becomes much larger than we can physically calculate and we have to break it down. In my moments with Nassar I was robbed of my ability to dream for my future. I had to break things down much smaller in order to survive. As this man’s hands were touching places that I had never let anyone touch, I began to break it down as small as my 15 year old mind could. I told myself I could make it one more second without exploding with all the anger inside of me. I could be a good kid. I could let this man help me without causing more trouble for my family, more grief for my father, the man who had been my confidant and white knight my entire life. One more second, Whitney. You can make it one more second. It went like this moment by moment even after his touching ended.
The complexity of what this man did to my emotional development is something I am only beginning to grasp. I was powerless to overcome my emotions or to get any sort of help because these were feelings I suppressed and thought I was crazy for having. Larry Nassar, along with stealing my innocence, left me with a complex feeling of being misunderstood; misunderstood by my parents, by my doctors, by my friends. Most of all, I was misunderstood by myself. I felt like an alien inside my own body, very alone and so angry, so I broke it down as small as I could and life became more manageable.
In this process I stopped thinking of my future. As a sophomore in high school my dreams were pretty big. I went from dreaming of college performing and dancing to simply trying to make it one more moment. I would cry all of the time. I would skip class and hide in the bathroom and sob. I withdrew from friends and family. I spoke with anger in my voice and misguided blame on my lips. I stopped smiling.
After years of love for ballet and dancing practically every day I lost my love for performing along with my dreams. I had been a happy, confident young woman who performed in musicals and dance recitals, participated regularly in church activities and choirs, and I had goals for the future. You stole my life, Larry Nassar, and I am now taking it back.
Standing here now as a 31 year old mother of my own happy innocent girls, my eyes are finally open to the control you had over me for all of these years, to the impact that it had on many of my relationships, and how intensely wrong and sick that it was. You not only sexually abused me but emotionally abused me for 15 years after in a way I had no knowledge of and thus no control over.
I have questioned myself and second-guessed myself. I have cried out for help and I have made many emotional decisions. I have also done the best that I can, and knowing how I felt inside, I’ve been proud of that. I’m not proud of that any more. Now I am proud of my ability to stand face to face with the man who changed my life and move forward to reach my dreams. Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know. I believe it has taken all of these years for this to surface because many people did not want to listen to the lesson that needed to be learned.
The power Larry Nassar held was given to him and we are here to take it away. To Larry Nassar and the others who hold responsibility for this, I simply have to say that the truth always comes out. Time is most powerful. With time your victims have grown powerful, too. I am more than ready to put this behind me and pray that the trials we have all faced will at least ensure that this does not happen in the future.
I place my faith in God and in our justice system and know that time is going to bring us the truth. Larry Nassar, I am glad to participate in the end for you, but let me tell you something, my success has only just begun. Thank you.
THE COURT: Thank you, ma’am. You are powerful. Your words will crash around him for the rest of his life, and I understand you perfectly, and you are not alone. If you look at these past — what are we on now, day six, all of these people have come together unified to speak very similar words. We all understand you and are beside you, and you have sister survivors who will stand with you whenever you need it. Thank you so much for your bravery and taking yourself back. Your voice matters. You matter. Thank you.
MS. BURNS: Thank you very much.