Victims of convicted pedophile and former US Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar have faced their abuser in court to provide moving and damning victim impact statements of their ordeals.
Kyle Stephens, who was abused by Nassar from the ages of 6 to 12, was one of the former gymnasts to read out her statement in a Michigan court, in which she detailed Nassar’s crimes.
They included exposing himself to her, pleasuring himself in front of her, rubbing his penis on her bare feet and putting his finger in her vagina. Stephens told how most of the abuse came under the guise of treatment for serious gymnastics injuries. She said the abuse led to her father’s suicide in 2016.
“Little girls don’t stay little forever,” Stephens said. “They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world. Sexual abuse is so much more than a disturbing physical act. It changes the trajectory of a victim’s life, and that is something that nobody has the right to do.”
Stephens’ statement is one of 98 victim statements expected by prosecutors in all, though that number could change. Some of the victims said they have suffered from self-doubt, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder as a direct result of Nassar’s abuse.
Many are asking for the maximum sentence for Nassar, who faced the statements with his head bowed and eyes closed, occasionally wiping away a tear with a tissue.
US Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney had previously spoke of “systematic sexual abuse” by Nassar under the pretext of medical treatment. She has since filed a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics alleging that she was paid to keep quiet about the sexual abuse.
Maroney’s teammate, Simone Biles, USA’s most decorated gymnast, revealed on Instagram on Tuesday: “I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar.”
It is not normal to receive any type of treatment from a trusted team physician and refer to it horrifyingly as the ‘special’ treatment,” the gymnast wrote. Biles also said she felt USA Gymnastics was to blame for the abuse, which she felt turned a blind eye to his crimes.
Stephens said she believes the reason her father took his own life stemmed from the shame and self-loathing he felt when he refused to believe her accusations against Nassar, only to realize later that she was telling the truth.
Donna Markham told the court she took her 12-year-old daughter Chelsey to Nassar for medical treatment years ago, where Nassar put his ungloved fingers in her vagina even as her mother was in the room.
Chelsey took her own life in 2009 at the age of 23 after a battle with depression and drugs, Donna said, claiming that her daughter “just couldn’t deal with it anymore,” CNN reported.
“Every day I miss her. Every day. And it all started with him. It all started with him, and it just became worse as the years went by until she just couldn’t deal with it anymore,” Markham said.
The 54-year-old Nassar, who served as USA Gymnastics physician for nearly 30 years and through four Olympic Games, pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct.
He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges and has pleaded guilty to three other criminal counts.