One by one the women stepped forward to the podium, some fighting back tears, to face their abuser.
They were among dozens of victims testifying this week at the sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar, a former doctor at Michigan State University who has been convicted of sexually abusing gymnasts and other female athletes — many of them young girls — under the guise of treatment.
“The system clearly failed you,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told victims Tuesday in her Michigan courtroom. “You as a small child had nothing to gain … by complaining, and still your voice went unheard. I promise you, it’s not unheard now.”
Here are edited excerpts from some of the victims’ statements.
Without my knowledge or consent I had engaged in my first sexual experience by kindergarten and had joined an overwhelming statistic of sexual abuse victims.
You used my body for six years for your own sexual gratification. That is unforgivable. 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 who return to destroy your world.
Your Honor, there is no time that Larry Nassar can serve that will give me back those years with my family.
I also developed an intense fear of male hands, like a PTSD response. Now I get flashbacks when I see male hands and it makes me feel scared and threatened. This fear changed the way I grew up and how I related to boys. I didn’t want to hold hands or ever be close to my guy friends.
I couldn’t be just a normal girl anymore and I have forever lost a big piece of my childhood due to his abuse.
When the first Indy Star article came out, my life changed. I put the pieces together and realized I was molested by Larry Nassar. I thought back to my appointments with him and could still feel what my 9- and 12-year-old self felt then, alone, scared and in pain.
You took advantage of my innocence and trust. You were my doctor and I trusted you and you took complete advantage of that. Why? I used to ask myself that question all the time, especially when I was laying in bed crying myself to sleep. What you did to me was so twisted. You manipulated me and my entire family. How dare you.
Donna Markham attributes her daughter Chelsea’s suicide to Nassar’s abuse, which sent her into a downward spiral of depression.
We got in the car (after a session with Nassar) and she started bawling and I said, ‘Chelsea tell me what’s wrong,’ and she said ‘Mom, he put his fingers in me, and they weren’t gloved.’
I said, ‘Chelsea I was right there in the room,’ and she goes, ‘You couldn’t see what was going on, mom.’ And she said, ‘He hurt me.’
She quit gymnastics the following year, when she was 13, because she went to a meet here in Lansing … and he (Nassar) was there. And she fell off of every apparatus. She did horrible, and she said ‘I can’t do this anymore because every time I see him I just flashback to what happened in his office.’
She made bad decisions. It affected her social life. She started running with bad crowds, she got into drugs, and she never really recovered the person that was my best friend.
For my daughter it became a serious, serious bout of depression. So in 2009 she took her own life because she couldn’t deal with the pain anymore.
It will be 10 years in March that I lost my baby. She was 23 years old. And every day I miss her. Every day. And it all started with him.
All I can think of is how this man, someone who held oh so many high credentials, was the monster who left me with more pain and scars than I came to his office with. The pain of never trusting someone physically again and the scars of being touched and exposed in places that were completely inappropriate.
That day in the office is a day that will never be forgotten.
Lastly, a few words to Mr. Larry Nassar. You broke and shattered a lot of girls. You manipulated us to trust you because you’re a doctor, and doctors do no wrong, only heal.
You are not a healer.
I am no longer broken by you.
I am Jade Capua, and I am a survivor.
For years Mr. Nassar convinced me that he was the only person who could help me recover from multiple serious injuries. To me, he was like a knight in shining armor. But alas, that shine blinded me from the abuse. He betrayed my trust, took advantage of my trust and sexually abused me hundreds of times.
I was the innocent 9-year-old with a broken pelvis that was willing to trust and allow the doctor to do anything to help it feel better. I had no reason not to. I was the 18-year-old preparing to go away to college, apprehensive and just hoping my body would be able to withstand four more years of the sport that defined my life.
Ten years of abuse and neglect. I don’t like the word victim. I am a survivor, but more so, I am me.
As a nation, we need to take control. Sexual offenders need to know that they cannot continue with the crimes they are committing, and no matter how long it takes for a survivor to come forward, their crimes will be exposed.
I can still remember the feeling of disbelief last October when I realized that what I had thought was medical treatment over 10 years (was abuse.)
This case has taken all of me. Every ounce of my being to press forward. I cannot sleep because of what you have done. I have experienced flashback nightmares of the abuse. Those that truly know me know that I will never be the same.
My heart is aching from not being able to trust anybody. I have become withdrawn from my own life. My peace of mind is forever taken away. I went from once trusting full-heartedly to not being able to trust at all.
You can’t trust a world-renowned doctor, who in the world can you trust?
The flashbacks of the hours spent alone in that exam room with him have at times kept me up at night. My memories are vivid and it’s hard to get the images out of my head.
I remember how much it hurt but didn’t want to speak up. Because I was afraid of what you would think of me, I had to be strong. When I told my mom that it hurt, she thought I was referring to the pain in my back not the pain in my vagina from the excruciating hour of assault that just took place.
I am 100 percent confident that if he had not been caught he would continue to do this for the rest of his life.
Jennifer Rood Bedford
I remember having the option of keeping my spandex on, which I was very grateful for and chose. He had me lay down face down on the medical table. When he started treatment, I remember him saying his treatment relied upon applying pressure to areas around the pelvis and that this was normal. So when he went down there, I just told myself it was normal, that he knows what he’s doing and don’t be a baby.
I remember laying there and thinking, “Is this OK? This doesn’t seem right.”
I didn’t know what to do. He didn’t say anything out of the ordinary, he just did it, as though he were doing something as mindless as riding a bicycle.
There are people that are hesitant to speak up because they think a victim wanted to be assaulted. And that’s just not true. So, in my opinion this is the worst part. Again, growing up in a culture with little experience of my own, I assumed something like what happened me would only happen if I wanted it to.
I remember laying there frozen stiff on the table, utterly mortified, confused and scared. I felt so powerless to control what was happening.
When I first read about Larry Nassar I could not believe it. I thought the women that reported the sexual assault must be mistaken. Even though I did not know this at the time, I had also gone through the same abuse, beginning when I was 15 years old. I was grieving that a person I respected and cared for had betrayed my trust.
Larry Nassar is a master manipulator. His conniving and calculating behavior not only tricked me, but he tricked my mom, who was present for all my appointments as a minor. After discovering the assault had taken place, my family and I were distraught with grief.
My mom blamed herself and felt she should have asked more questions and been more guarded and skeptical about procedures. The thought of my mom hurting and blaming herself was heartbreaking for me because never once did I think it was her fault.
I have a different relationship with Larry from the standpoint that I was a coach for many years. I’m also an exercise physiologist. When I graduated from grad school he was an adviser of mine. He’s been a mentor of mine.
I’ve done clinics with him for years in the past and I’ve probably sent well over 100 kids to him over the years. So the guilt I feel for that is hard to fathom.
So he didn’t only deceive these girls … honest to God, that’s the worst of the worst … but what you did to everybody else who trusted you and sent girls your way. It’s disgusting, reprehensible, unforgivable.
During the trial I was referred to as Victim B. But my name is Madeleine Jones. I’m currently 18 years old and I was a gymnast for 13 years.
Before every appointment, I cried in the bathroom. And after every appointment, I couldn’t wait to get home to shower because I always left his office feeling so dirty. Yet, no amount of showers made me feel clean at all.
You talked about Catholicism with my mother while sexually violating me. You clearly never took that to heart. You saw me, a little child of God, as an object you could use to make yourself feel more powerful. You took away my power, my self-worth, my emotional development, my happiness and my innocence.
I was 11 years old, Larry. I was just beginning to development my sense of self. And you took away what little substance I had for myself. Because of you, I’ve tried to commit suicide. During the suicide attempts, I’d walk down my hallway to my bedroom, accepted I was going to die. And I felt this overwhelming sense of relief because I finally didn’t have to live thinking that my life didn’t mean anything.
Now I understand that I lived because I’m meant to live. I’m meant to be happy, and I need to be alive to put abusers like you in jail.
I was not one of his younger victims without words to explain what he did. I was a woman in my mid 20’s studying to go to medical school and working at a pediatrician’s office. I knew that he had abused me. I reported it.
Michigan State University, the school I loved and trusted, had the audacity to tell me that I did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure. That master manipulator took advantage of his title, he abused me, and when I found the strength to talk about what had happened I was ignored and my voice was silenced.
Editor’s note: Patrick Fitzgerald, an attorney for Michigan State University, defended MSU’s response to Nassar in a letter to the Michigan attorney general. “The evidence will show that no MSU official believed that Nassar committed sexual abuse prior to newspaper reports in the summer of 2016,” he wrote.
I am still so angry at you. You had no right to lie to me, to use my body. To this day, 17 years later, I still have nightmares and difficulty sleeping.
Intimate relationships are difficult. I have feelings of guilt, that I’m a disappointment.
I have invisible wounds that have forever changed my life. I am changing that today. You stole my confidence and self-worth, but I am regaining it. You will not break my core and you no longer have power over me
As a mother of one — soon to be two — daughters, I have now had to redefine what it means to keep them safe.
You will never again hurt me or another girl ever.
I will find peace. The other survivors, my family and friends are helping me with that. I cannot forgive you today. You are in god’s hands now.