One of the many women sexually abused by disgraced USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar recalled feeling like a “shell of a child,” as three of Nassar’s victims took to the airwaves Thursday morning a day after he was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.
“I was a shell of a child, I thought I had no way out,” elite gymnast Mattie Larson said on the Megyn Kelly Today show, appearing alongside Kyle Stephens and Rachel Denhollander, who were also sexually abused by Nassar.
More than 150 women delivered statements at Nassar’s sentencing hearing, detailing years of abuse that began for some when they were as young as six years old. Nassar’s victims spanned gymnasts in Michigan, where he was on the faculty at Michigan State University before he was fired in 2016, a family friend, as well as Olympians Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber. Raisman and Wieber’s Olympic teammates Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney also said they were abused by Nassar.
“To watch all of these women who are able to come forward and speak the truth about the abuse that happened to them, and are able to put the shame and blame back where it belongs, is an incredibly powerful thing to witness,” Denhollander, the first woman to publicly reveal she was a victim of sexual assault by Nassar, said Thursday on the Today show. But while she first reported Nassar’s conduct to the people he worked for including USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University in 2004, she noted that other people had also reported him starting in the late 1990s. “The vast majority [of abuse]… did not have to happen,” Denhollander said.
Larson described intentionally hurting herself in order to avoid the national training camp where she knew Nassar would be, hitting her head against a tub the night before she was scheduled to leave for the camp.
The women echoed criticisms heard all week against the institutions that continued to support Nassar — USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and Twistars Gymnastics, where Nassar also worked as doctor. But it wasn’t until the publicly aired statements by the survivors that in recent days, that the board leadership of USA Gymnastics resigned, and MSU’s president resigned.
While Nassar abused gymnasts and athletes under the guise of medical treatment, with Kyle Stephens, whose parents were friends with Nassar, it was simply abuse. Only six years old when Nassar began exposing himself, masturbating and abusing her in his basement, Stephens said she did not realize she was abused until several years later, when she saw coverage of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
“I saw a man crying on TV, and heard what he was talking about,” she said. “I thought, ‘Why is he crying? That happened to me. Maybe it was not a good thing.'”
She called Nassar a pedophile and a child molester, and said when she went to her parents about the abuse, her mother and father did not believe her. “The fact that his child made such a heinous accusation with no pretense really made me a target for him,” Stephens said, which led to years of a fractured relationship with her father that wasn’t repaired until just before he committed suicide in 2016. “It was hard for him to deal with that thought.”