photograph: ioan schlosser @unsplash

Kyle Stephens

date of testimony: January 16th 2018
location of testimony: Lancing, Michigan

Good morning. My name is Kyle Stephens. Up until this point I have been known as victim ZA or family friend. I was the first to testify in this case, and weary of the attention that can come with that, I asked for anonymity.

This process has been horrific, but surprisingly therapeutic. I am addressing you publicly today as a final step and statement to myself that I have nothing to be ashamed of.

I met Larry Nassar when I was somewhere around the age of five years old. My parents had become close friends with Larry and his wife, Stephanie. They were all medical professionals and shared a passion for the subject.

Most Sundays Stephanie and my mother would cook dinner together for both families. We shared sporting events, holidays, and many weekends in between.

It was during this time, I estimate I was approximately six years old, that Larry Nassar began to sexually abuse me. He first exposed his penis to me in a dark boiler room in the basement of his home.

He told me, if you ever want to see it, all you have to do is ask. He used his power as an adult to manipulate me.

Over a six year period he progressed from exposure to masturbating in front of me while playing hide and go seek, rubbing his bare penis on my bare feet, and penetrating my vagina with his fingers, all of which took place with my parents, my sibling, his wife, and his children in the same house.

Let me remind you of the interests of a six year old girl. My favorite t.v. show was Clifford, the big red dog, and my favorite book was Junnie B. Jones. I could not do a multiplication problem and still had not lost all my baby teeth.

I think we can all agree that someone of this maturity level should not be sexually active.

But I was. Without my knowledge or consent I had engaged in my first sexual experience by kindergarten and joined an overwhelming statistic of sexual abuse victims.

It took the media coverage of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church and a friend confiding the details of her sexual abuse for me to realize that something was wrong. I was 12 years old when I told my parents, when Larry rubbed my feet, he used his penis. My parents confronted him and he denied any such action.

Due to complex details that I won’t get into here, my parents chose to believe Larry Nassar over me.

I spent the years between 12 and 18 avoiding and detaching from my family. To my father, someone who makes such heinous false accusations is the worst type of person. His belief that I had lied seeped into the foundation of our relationship.

Every time we got into a fight he would tell me, you need to apologize to Larry.

I learned to ask for very little as I wanted my parents to know that I didn’t need them, just as I felt they didn’t want me.

It wasn’t until I was about to leave for college when my father again pulled a need to apologize card and then I took another chance of clearing my name. I told him that I wasn’t lying and that Larry Nassar had indeed sexually abused me.

Larry Nassar’s actions had already caused me significant anguish, but I hurt worse as I watched my father realize what he had put me through.

My father and I did our best to patch up our tattered relationship before he committed suicide in 2016. Admittedly, my father was experiencing debilitating health issues, but had he not had to bear the shame and self-loathing that stemmed from his defense of Larry Nassar, I believe he would have had a fighting chance for his life.

Larry Nassar wedged himself between myself and my family and used his leverage as my parents’ trusted friend to pry us apart until we fractured.

And fractured we did.

My relationship with my mother is still marbled with pain, anger, and resentment, and for a long time I told people that I did not have a family.

I think it is important to note my relationship with the Nassar family after I accused him at age 12. A year or two passed from the time that I made the accusation and our families began to spend time together again. I was around 14 years old when Stephanie began pressuring me to babysit the Nassars’ three children. I responded with dismissive answers for a lengthy period of time before relenting.

It was at this point that I began to feel brainwashed. At home I was a liar and when I was at the Nassars, either with my family or babysitting, it was as if I never accused him. I felt I was losing my grip on reality. I started to question whether the abuse ever really happened. For my own sanity, I forced myself to walk through the abuse step by step so I didn’t forget that I was not a liar. It is to this that I credit my ability to recall the abuse so well throughout this process.

As I continued to babysit for the Nassars I started to become resolved to my purpose there. With two young girls in the home I felt protective and that somehow my presence there would make a difference. For seven years and several years into counseling — for seven years and several years into counseling I cared for those children with all my heart. My detachment from my family forced me to search for grants, participate in post-traumatic studies, ask for sliding scales, and babysit for the Nassars to pay for my own counseling.

When I look back now, I realize that my spirit was broken, lost, and confused, but then all I could think is that I needed to be there for those children in whatever way I could. It was not until I was 21 that I cut all ties with the Nassar family.

The complex feelings of shame, disgust, and self hatred brought me bouts of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other compulsive conditions.

Sometimes I think it’s hard for people to translate these generic terms into reality. For me, it was a girl crying on the floor for hours trying not to rip out too much of her hair. For me, it was a girl wanting the pain to stop so badly that she woke up for months to the thought, I want to die. For me, it was a girl getting out her gun and laying it on the bed just to remind herself that she has control over her own life. For me, it was a girl that spent so much time trying to fix herself that she forgot what she actually enjoys doing.

Sexual abuse is so much more than disturbing physical acts. It changes the trajectory of a victim’s life, and that is something that no one has the right to do.

Your Honor, with your permission, I would now like to address the defendant.

THE COURT: You may.

After my parents confronted you, they brought you back to my house to speak with me. Sitting on my living room couch I listened to you tell me no one should ever do that, and if they do, you should tell someone. Well, Larry, I’m here, not to tell someone, but to tell everyone.

You convinced my parents that I was a liar, that you didn’t keep lotion strategically placed in the basement so you could beat your penis in my face while I hid. But I still get sick at the smell of that lotion.

You convinced my parents that you didn’t pull my feet into your lap, unzip your pants, and rub your erect penis against my bare skin, but I still flinch when my feet are near someone’s lap.

You convinced my parents that you didn’t stick your fingers in my adolescent vagina, but I knew when it was time to use my first tampon not to worry because my hymen wasn’t intact.

You used my body for six years for your own sexual gratification. That is unforgiveable.

I have been coming for you for a long time.

I’ve told counselors your name in hopes that they would report you. I have reported you to Child Protective Services twice. I gave a testament to get your medical license revoked. You were first arrested on my charges, and now as the only non-medical victim to come forward, I testify to let the world know that you are a repulsive liar and that those treatments were pathetically veiled sexual abuse.

Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.

Your Honor, there’s no time that Larry Nassar can serve that will give me back those years with my family or the time and energy I spent sorting out my anger, frustration, and confusion. But I can tell you this, our law does not do enough to prevent predatory acts and often does not do enough to punish predators who have committed the hideous acts of abuse of a child.

I can also tell you Larry Nassar is a predator without boundaries. His patients weren’t safe, his friends’ children weren’t safe, and even his own children weren’t safe. If he is ever allowed to reenter society, he will not hesitate to re-offend.

We have all done our part to get to this point and will continue to do our part to combat the diseased societal thinking that kept a hundred plus victims quiet for decades, but right here, right now it’s your turn. I implore you to do your part, make a statement that forces other predators to think twice. Keep Larry Nassar out of our communities.

I ask for a minimum of 40 and a maximum of 125. Thank you.

THE COURT: Thank you. The system clearly failed you and it has failed so many children, people without voices, but you certainly have grown into a beautiful, smart, intelligent woman who has a voice. This voice that you have just let out publicly will have that rippling effect to change legislation, to change the lives of children who are being abused, to speak up like you.

What’s so important is that you weren’t sure what was going on but you kept questioning, and when you heard other voices, you knew it was wrong, and it’s so important what you’ve just said to all those children and helpless people, and it is a shame that you are not alone, that your family didn’t listen, that they trusted the abuser, but you as a small child had nothing to gain, nothing by complaining, and still your voice went unheard.

I promise you you’re not unheard now. I have one question for you. Are you seeking restitution from Larry Nassar?


THE COURT: We can leave it open. Do you understand what restitution is? Restitution makes you whole, and I know that you need counseling. You paid for your own counseling, so it’s something that I can order to make you financially whole. I understand you may never fully feel whole, but I think you’re on your way to healing, but for those needs that you might have, I certainly can order restitution.

I don’t know anything about the civil case.

I kept myself away from other things that would affect that. I don’t know if you’re part of that or not. I don’t know if that case will live or die. I don’t know what the judgment may or may not be. There’s no guarantees with that.

Restitution, there is a guarantee that if for some reason he has money, earned money, inherits money, whatever, goes to the victims first, so if that’s something you would like, I can leave it open so you can think about it

MS. STEPHENS: I’m not interested in any money that would take anything from his children, so, no, thank you.