All the Young Gymnasts Who Have Spoken Out Against Larry Nassar
When the #MeToo movement reemerged last October when Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a serial sexual predator, a landslide of accusations against other men emerged. From Hollywood bigshots to politicians, the stories of assault and abuse kept rolling in for months. Still, relatively little attention has been paid to Larry Nassar, the former gymnastics doctor for the USA women’s Olympic team and Michigan State University who has been accused of abusing young girls, and charged with child pornography crimes. Nassar has been accused of more than 140 women of sexual abuse, a list that now includes one of America’s most loved young athletes: Simone Biles.
In a tweet on Monday, Biles, who competed in the 2016 Olympics, added her name to the women who have come forward about abuse they suffered from Nassar. In her post, Biles wrote, “I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar. 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.” She added that for a long time she blamed herself for what Nassar did to her, and that “we need to make sure something like this never happens again.”
Nassar recently pled guilty to several counts of criminal sexual conduct, and his sentencing hearing began today. He faces up to 25 years in prison. Victims have the opportunity to make impact statements detailing what Nassar did to them and the effect it has had on their lives, a portion of the sentencing hearing that CNN reports could take a few days.
As Biles comes forward, here’s what some other young women have said about the abuse Nassar inflicted on them.
In October, Team USA gold medalist McKayla Maroney stepped forward and said that Nassar started sexually abusing her when she was 13 years old. In a now-deleted tweet, Maroney said that Nassar told her that the abuse was a “medically necessary treatment.” Maroney said in her tweet that it seemed Nassar took any and every chance to “treat” her, and continued to harm her throughout her entire Olympic career. According to CNN, Maroney only escaped Nassar’s abuse when she left the Olympic team in 2016.
Maroney and Biles’ teammate Aly Raisman was the second member of the 2016 Olympic team to accuse Nassar of sexual abuse. Raisman said in a November interview with People that Nassar started abusing her when she was 15, and that he also claimed the abuse was a type of medical treatment. Raisman also said she was “brainwashed” into thinking that she was okay.
Raisman explains in her new book, Fierce, that it wasn’t until she started getting real treatment from other trainers and doctors that she realized Nassar was abusing her. The Olympic champion writes in her book: “And there was never a moment when their methods made me uncomfortable. It was different with Larry. I would lie on the table, my hands involuntarily balling themselves into fists as his ungloved hands worked their way under my clothing. ‘Treatment sessions’ with him always made me feel tense and uncomfortable.”
Soon after Raisman made her story public in November, fellow teammate Gabby Douglas said Nassar abused her, too. Douglas stated that she was abused by Nassar in a statement apologizing for the way she had responded to one of Raisman’s tweets that called out victim-shaming. Douglas responded to the tweet by suggesting women shouldn’t wear revealing clothing, but later apologized for her remark on Instagram, and said that she hadn’t spoken out about the abuse sooner because she was “conditioned to stay silent and honestly some things were extremely painful.”
Maggie Nichols, who competed in the 2012 London Olympics where the women’s gymnastics team won the gold, came forward earlier this month to accuse Nassar of sexual abuse. Through a statement released by her attorney, Nichols said on January 9 that she too had been one of Nassar’s victims while she competed on Team USA, starting when she was 15 years old. In the statement, Nichols says that she thought of Nassar as both a friend to her and a doctor, and described how he “groomed” her for abuse.
“He contacted me on Facebook complimenting me and telling me how beautiful I looked on numerous occasions,” Nichols’s statement reads. “But I was only 15 and I just thought he was trying to be nice to me. Now I believe this was part of the grooming process I recently learned about.”
According to CNN, Kyle Stephens was the first of Nassar’s victims to give her victim impact statement at Nassar’s sentencing hearing in Michigan today. Stephens says Nassar, who was a friend of her family’s, started abusing her when she was just six years old. In her statement in court today, Stephens told Nassar: “Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”
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(Images via Mike Coppola/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis + Getty Images)