Larry Nassar, 54, has been sentenced to 175 years, or 2100 months, in prison for molesting US gymnasts under the guise of giving ‘treatment’. After his sentencing, the judge declared: “I just signed your death warrant.”
Today’s sentencing marks the end of a remarkable seven-day hearing, in which scores of Nassar’s victims were able to face their abuser and tell him the damage he caused. In total, 156 victims sat under the harsh courtroom lighting and read their victim impact statements. In many cases, the abuse started when the girls were 12 or 13, and continued for several years.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said Nassar’s assaults were “precise, calculated, manipulative, devious, despicable,” AAP reports.
“It is my honour and privilege to sentence you. You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again. You have done nothing to control those urges and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable,” Aquilina said.
When the hearing ended, the courtroom broke into applause.
She was abused as her mother sat in the same room.
— CNN (@CNN) January 24, 2018
One of the first victims to speak out against Nassar was the last person to give her victim impact statement today.
In late August, 2016, Rachael Denhollander filed criminal charges against Nassar. Two weeks later, she took her story public with the Indy Star. She knew at the time, if she didn’t speak out, the abuse would continue.
She spoke publicly about receiving treatment for lower back pain as a 15-year-old gymnast in 2000. She underwent five treatments as a club-level gymnast and, each time, Nassar became more and more confident in his abuse.
Even though her mother was sitting in the same room, Nassar massaged her genitals, penetrated her vagina and anus with his fingers, and unhooked her bra to massage her breasts. The lower part of her body was hidden by a curtain and her mother, sitting only metres away, could only see the back of her daughter’s head.
“I was terrified,” Denhollander told the Indy Star at the time. “I was ashamed. I was very embarrassed. And I was very confused, trying to reconcile what was happening with the person he was supposed to be. He’s this famous doctor. He’s trusted by my friends. He’s trusted by these other gymnasts. How could he reach this position in the medical profession, how could he reach this kind of prominence and stature if this is who he is?”
She likely had no idea of the effect speaking out would have. Facing the courtroom today, she said the system, the institution, failed the young gymnasts.
“Larry meticulously groomed me for the purpose of exploiting me for his sexual gain. He penetrated me, he groped me, he fondled me. And then he whispered questions about how it felt,” she said, CNN reports.
“Women and girls banded together to fight for themselves because no one else would do it. Larry found sexual satisfaction in our suffering.”
LISTEN: The Time’s Up movement, explained. Post continues below.
The ‘Fierce Five’ and the ‘Final Five’ Olympic teams.
At both the 2012 London Olympics and the 2016 Rio Olympics, the USA gymnastics teams dominated. First, it was the ‘Fierce Five’ in London and then the ‘Final Five’ in Rio. Both teams won gold collectively, and individual members of these teams took home handfuls of winning medals. Nassar, of course, was the treating physician.
The most recent allegations come from 20-year-old Biles, who won a total of four gold medals while in Rio. On January 17, she released a statement via Twitter saying: “The more I try to shut off the voice in my head, the louder it screams”.
"Please believe me when I say it was a lot harder to first speak those words out loud than it is now to put them on paper," Biles posted to Twitter. "There are many reasons that I have been reluctant to share my story, but I know now it is not my fault."
Fellow Olympian Aly Raisman, 23, went public with her allegations in November. She told TIME the abuse started when she was 15. That Nassar always suggested massage treatment for any injury; that the massages would be focused around the pelvic region; that he never wore gloves; and that he penetrated her vagina with his fingers.
"We were molested by a monster. It was mandatory to get 'treatment' by Nassar," she posted to Twitter in January.
.@USAGym STOP VICTIM SHAMING. Your statements are hurtful. If you did not believe that I & others were abused than why pressure & manipulate us? WE WERE MOLESTED BY A MONSTER U ENABLED 2 THRIVE FOR DECADES. You are 100% responsible. It was mandatory to get "treatment" by Nassar.
— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) January 10, 2018
McKayla Maroney who, alongside Raisman, competed at the Olympics in both Rio and in London, said she was 13 when the abuse started.
"It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was 'treated,'" Maroney wrote on Twitter in October, The Guardian reports. "It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and it happened before I won my silver."
And Douglas, in November last year, said she, too, was abused by Nassar and released a statement in response to being accused of victim blaming.
"I know that no matter what you wear, it never gives anyone the right to harass or abuse you," she said in a statement via Instagram. "That would be like saying that because of the leotards we wore, it was our fault we were abused by Larry Nassar."
These girls had no idea this wasn’t a medical procedure.
Megan Halicek says she was sexually abused at the age of 15 inside Nassar's office. She was training for Level 10 gymnastics, suffered from a badly fractured spine and thought her career was nearly over.
Dr Larry Nassar and his treatments were the only hopes she had to cure her injury and return to the sport she loved.
“As I stand here, I still flash back to the feelings of fear, laying frozen in his office, my sweating shaking body, adrenaline pumping, painfully clutching the sides of the table, waiting for the sick treatment to be over.”
He overlooked her broken leg.
— ChicagoSports (@ChicagoSports) January 24, 2018
Former elite US gymnast Isabell Hutchins faced the courtroom on the sixth day of the hearing, saying Nassar overlooked what turned out to be a broken leg while he molested her in the basement of his home.
Hutchins practised for weeks at a Lansing-area gymnastics club and even competed at national events despite acute leg pain as a teen in 2011, AAP reports.
She said Nassar did nothing to encourage her to get help and instead molested her during late-night appointments at his home.
"You were never a real doctor. You did not heal me. You only hurt me," Hutchins told Nassar, who was seated only metres away.
"You convinced my parents I was a liar."
'Little girls don't stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.'
Kyle Stephens confronts former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar at his sentencing [WARNING: Graphic] pic.twitter.com/MGpepEVYER
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 16, 2018
Kyle Stephens was the first person to read her victim impact statement to the court, and is the only non-athlete to come forward.
She told the judge she was six when she was first molested by the man facing sitting in front of her. That Nassar - a friend of her family - would keep lotion in his basement where he would masturbate in front of her. That he would rub his erect penis between her feet. The he would penetrate her with his fingers.
She also said that when she told her parents six years later, aged 12, they didn't believe her.
Instead, they invited Nassar over the house where he sat her down on the couch and explained how "no one should ever do that and if they do, you should tell someone".
"You convinced my parents that I was a liar," Stephens said, according to Oxygen. "Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world."
Later, when her father discovered his daughter hadn't been lying, that the abuse had been ongoing for years, he couldn't live with the guilt and suicided, Huffington Post reports. During the hearing, Stephens blamed Nassar for her father's death, as well.
She told the judge: "Had he not had to bear the shame and self-loathing that stemmed from his defense of Larry Nassar, he would have had a fighting chance."
"Started the process of my daughter's self-destruction."
The mother of former gymnast Chelsea Markham addressed the court, saying Nassar's abuse was what started her daughter on a path of self-destruction that eventually led to her suicide in her early twenties.
"She said that: 'everyone will know, and everyone will judge me, and the judges will know as I compete'," Donna Markham told the court, saying her daughter quit gymnastics after the abuse. And carried a shame within her because of the pain Nassar inflicted.
Speaking to journalists outside the courtroom, Donna told USA Today: "He doesn't understand, or he does understand and he doesn't care, what he has done to these girls. When you're 10 or 11, or even younger, and someone's sexually assaulting you and you don't even know what it's about. It's sad. It's very very sad "
LISTEN: The moment Jelena Dokic picked up a racket, her life changed forever. Post continues below.
When he issued his plea in November, Nassar admitted to the court to putting his finger in girls' vaginas during 'treatment'. He said this behaviour had been going back as far as 1998, and included incidences with girls under 13.
However, mid-way through listening to the victim statements this week, Nassar gave Judge Aquilina a letter saying he couldn't bear to hear anything more, NBC reports. He accused her of turning the case into a media circus and using it as a platform to advance her own reputation.
She wouldn't hear it: "Spending four or five days listening to them is significantly minor considering the hours of pleasure you had at their expense and ruining their lives," Judge Aquilina told him in open court the next day. "I don't want even one victim to lose their voice."
In the same letter, Nassar denied any wrongdoing and said the women coming forward are angry and brainwashed: "I was a good doctor because my treatments worked, and those patients that are now speaking out are the same ones that praised and came back over and over," Nassar wrote, CNN reports. "The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I broke their trust. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
This proves, Judge Aquilina, he "still doesn't get it".
After the sentence was handed down today, Nassar turned to the courtroom gallery to make a brief statement, saying that the accounts of more than 150 victims had "shaken me to my core". And that "no words" can describe how sorry he is for his crimes.
If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.
We think you deserve to treat yourself. So Mamamia are giving you the opportunity to win one of three $100 gift vouchers by completing a survey for us.
Here at Mamamia we are always looking for ways to make Mamamia even better and more sparkly for you. By filling out this quick 15 min survey, you will help us do just that.