Aly Raisman, a two-time Olympian, stood before a Michigan courtroom on Friday and confronted Larry Nassar in an impassioned indictment of the doctor, who has pled guilty to criminal sexual conduct, and USA Gymnastics.
“Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force. And you are nothing,” Raisman said. “The tables have turned Larry, we are here, we have our voices. And we are not going anywhere.”
LIVE: Olympic star Aly Raisman testifies at sentencing of disgraced former team doctor - https://t.co/kdrUxkkyai https://t.co/IUbBr1RuYC— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 19, 2018
Raisman is one of about 100 women who are giving harrowing testimony against Nassar, a former Michigan State University physician and USA Gymnastics doctor who worked with the US women’s national team.
More than 150 women have accused Nassar of sexually abusing them, often under the guise of medical treatment. Raisman, and fellow Olympians Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Jordyn Wieber, and McKayla Maroney have all spoken publicly about Nassar’s abuse.
Some of these survivors faced down Nassar as he awaits his sentence. He pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in two Michigan counties; this is one of two sentencing hearings this month. He faces a minimum of 25 to 40 years in prison for his crimes, and is already serving a 60-year sentence on federal pornography charges. He will almost surely spend the rest of his life in prison.
Raisman’s statement comes on the fourth day of victim-impact testimony. Her fellow 2012 Olympian, Jordyn Wieber, also spoke in court Friday — the fourth member of the 2012 gold-medal winning “Fierce Five” to come forward with allegations against Nassar. (A prosecutor read the statement of another member of that team, McKayla Maroney, in court Thursday.)
Most of the dozens of women who testified were young athletes, some at Michigan State University where Nassar served on the faculty, who put their trust in the well-respected doctor to heal their injured back, or sore hip. This week, one by one, these women condemned the doctor, recounting, sometimes in tearful detail, the abuse they had suffered.
Like Raisman, these survivors also rebuked the institutions that employed Nassar, including USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, which they say ignored the whispers and warnings about him — effectively silencing them, and giving Nassar license to continue preying on women and girls.
“To believe in the future of gymnastics is to believe in change,” Raisman said. “But how are we to believe in change when these organizations aren’t even willing to acknowledge the problem? It’s easy to put out statements talking about how athlete care is the highest priority, but they’ve been saying that for years. And all the while, this nightmare was happening.”
Read Raisman’s full statement below:
Your honor, thank you for the opportunity to make this statement here today and thank you for providing the time and flexibility for all the other brave survivors to make their statement. Each survivor deserves to be heard equally.
I didn’t think I would be here today. I was scared, and nervous, it wasn’t until I started watching the impact statements from the other brave survivors that I realized that I, too, needed to be here. Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force. And you are nothing.
The tables have turned Larry, we are here, we have our voices. And we are not going anywhere. And now Larry, it is your turn. To listen to me. There is no map that shows you the pathway to healing. Realizing that you’re a survivor of sexual abuse is really hard to put into words. I cannot adequately capture the level of disgust I feel when I think about how this happened.
Larry, you abused the power and trust I and so many others placed in you, and I am not sure I will ever come to terms with how horribly you manipulated and violated me. You were the USA Gymnastics national team doctor. You were trusted by so many and took advantage of countless athletes and their families.
The effects of your actions are far reaching. Abuse goes far beyond the moment. Often haunting survivors for the rest of their lives, making it difficult to trust and impacting their relationships. It is all the more devastating when abuse comes at the hands of such a highly regarded doctor. Since it leaves survivors questioning the organizations and even the medical profession itself upon which so many rely.
I am here to face you Larry so you can see I’ve regained my strength, that I am no longer a victim, I’m a survivor. I am no longer that little girl you met in Australia where you first began grooming and manipulating.
As for your letter yesterday, you are pathetic to think anybody would have any sympathy for you. You think this is hard for you? Imagine how all of us feel. Imagine how it feels to be an innocent teenager in a foreign country, hearing a knock on the door and it’s you. I don’t want you to be there, but I don’t have a choice. Treatments with you were mandatory. You took advantage of that. You even told on us if we didn’t want to be treated by you. Knowing full well the troubles that would cause for us.
Lying on my stomach with you on my bed insisting that your inappropriate touch would help to heal my pain. The reality is you caused me a great deal of physical, mental, and emotional pain. You never healed me. You took advantage of our passions and our dreams. You made me uncomfortable, and I thought you were weird.
But I felt guilty, because you were a doctor. So I thought I was the problem for thinking badly of you. I wouldn’t allow myself to believe the problem was you. From the time we are little we are taught to trust doctors, you are so sick I can’t even comprehend how angry I am when I think of you. You lied to me, and manipulated me to think when you treated me, you were closing your eyes because you had been working hard when you were really touching me. An innocent child. To pleasure yourself.
Imagine feeling like you have no power, and no voice. Well you know what, Larry, I have both power and voice. And I am only beginning to just use them. All these brave women have power, and voices, and we will make sure to use them so that you get what you deserve. A life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors.
I am also here to tell you to your face Larry that you have not taken gymnastics away from me. I love this sport, and that love is stronger than the evil that resides in you, in those that enabled you to hurt many people. You already know you’re going away to a place where you will not be able to hurt anyone every again. But I am here to tell you I will not rest until every last trace of your influence on this sport has been destroyed, like the cancer it is.
Your abuse started 30 years ago. But that’s just the first reported incident we know of. If over these many years just one adult listened and had the courage and character to act, this tragedy could have been avoided. I and so many others would have never ever met you. Larry, you should have been locked up a long, long time ago. Fact is, we have no idea how many people you victimized or what was done or not done that allowed you to keep doing it and to allow you to keep doing it for so long.
Over those 30 years, when survivors came forward, adult after adult, many in positions of authority, protected you. Telling each survivor it was okay, that you weren’t abusing them. In fact, many adults had you convince the survivors that they were being dramatic or had been mistaken. This is like being violated all over again.
How do you sleep at night? You were decorated by USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic committee. Both of which put you on advisory boards and committees. To come up with policies that would protect athletes from this kind of abuse. You are the person they had “take the lead of athlete care.” You are the person they say “provided the foundation for our medical system.” I cringe to think that your influence remains in the policies that are supposed to keep athletes safe. That these organizations have for years claimed “state of the art.”
To believe in the future of gymnastics is to believe in change. But how are we to believe in change when these organizations aren’t even willing to acknowledge the problem. It’s easy to put out statements talking about how athlete care is the highest priority, but they’ve been saying that for years, and all the while this nightmare was happening. False assurances from organizations are dangerous, especially when people want so badly to believe them. They make it easier to look away from the problem and enable bad things to continue to happen.
And even now, after all that has happened, USA Gymnastics has the nerve to say the very same things it has said all along. Can’t you see how disrespectful that is?Can’t you see how much that hurts?
A few days ago, USA Gymnastics put out a statement attributed to its president and CEO, Kerry Perry, saying she came to listen to the courageous women, and said, “their powerful voices leave an indelible impact on me, and will impact my decisions as president and CEO every day.” This sounds great Ms. Perry, but at this point talk is cheap. You left midway through the day, and at this point, no one has heard from you or the board.
Carrie, I have never met you, and I know you weren’t around for most of this. But you accepted the position as president and CEO of USA Gymnastics and I assume by now you’re very well aware of the weighty responsibility you have taken on. Unfortunately, you have taken on an organization that I feel is rotting from the inside. And while you may not have believed this is what you were getting into, you will be judged by how you deal with it.
A word of advice: continuing to issue statements of empty statements thinking that will pacify us will no longer work. Yesterday, USA Gymnastics announced it was terminating its lease at the ranch where so many of us were abused. I am glad that it is no longer a National Team training site but USA Gymnastics neglected to mention that they had athletes training there the day they released the statement.
USA Gymnastics, where is the honesty? Where is the transparency? Why must the manipulation continue?
Neither USA Gymnastics nor the USOC have reached out to express sympathy or even offer support. Not even to ask how did this happen? What can we do to help? Why have I and others here probably not heard anything from the leadership at the USOC? Why has the United States Olympic Committee been silent? Why isn’t the USOC here right now?
Larry was the Olympic doctor, and he molested me at the 2012 London Olympic Games. They say now they applaud those who have spoken out, but it’s easy to say that now. When the brave women who started speaking out then, more than a year after the USOC said they knew about Nassar, they were dismissed.
At the 2012 olympic games, the president of the USOC said that the USOC would not conduct an investigation and even defended USA Gymnastics as one of the leaders in developing policies to protect athletes. That’s the response a courageous women gets when she speaks out?
And when others joined those athletes and began speaking out with more stories of abuse, were they acknowledged? No. It is like being abused all over again.
I have represented the United States of America in two olympics and I have done so successfully. In both USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee have been very quick to capitalize and celebrate my success. But did they reach out when I came forward? No.
So, at this point, talk is worthless to me. We’re dealing with real lives and the future of our sport.
We need to believe that this won’t happen again. For this sport to go on, we need to demand real change. And we need to be willing to fight for it. It’s clear now that if we leave it up to these organizations, history is likely to repeat itself.
To know what changes are needed requires us to know what has exactly happened and why it has happened. This is painful process but it’s the only way to identify all the factors that contributed to this problem and how they can be avoided in the future.
This is the only way to learn from these mistakes and make gymnastics a safer sport. If ever there was a need to fully understand a problem, it is this one right now.
To accept that problem is limited to just what we know now is irresponsible. Delusional, even. Each new day seems to bring a new survivor. We have no idea how much damage you caused, Larry. And we have no idea how deep these problems go. Now is the time to acknowledge that the very person who sits here now, who perpetrated the worst epidemic of sexual abuse in the history of sports. Who is going to be locked up for a long, long time. This monster was also the architect of policies and procedures that are supposed to protect athletes from sexual abuse, for both USA Gymnastics and the USOC.
If we are to believe in change, we must first understand the problem and everything that contributed to it. Now is not the time for false reassurances. We need an independent investigation of exactly what happened, what went wrong, and what can be avoided for the future. Only then can we know what changes are needed. Only then can we believe such changes are real.
Your honor, I ask you to give Larry the strongest possible sentence which his actions deserve. By doing so, you will send a message to him and to other abusers that they cannot get away with their horrible crimes. They will be exposed for the evil they are, and they will be punished to the maximum extent of the law.
Let this sentence strike fear in anyone who thinks it is okay to hurt another person. Abusers, your time is up. Survivors are here, standing tall. And we are not going. anywhere. And please, your honor, stress the need to investigate how this happened so we that we can hold accountable those who enabled Larry Nassar. So that we can repair and once again believe in this wonderful sport.
My dream is that one day, everyone will know whats the words “Me Too” signify, but they will be educated and able to protect themselves from educators like Larry so they will never ever ever be able to say the words “Me Too.” Thank you.