Nearly 90 women who allege they were sexually assaulted by a former USA Gymnastics doctor plan to speak about the abuse during a four-day sentencing hearing that started Tuesday.
Larry Nassar is accused of sexually abusing more than 140 women and girls as the doctor for Team USA and Michigan State University.
He has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Mich., to seven first-degree sexual assault charges. Before ordering a sentence, the judge in the case is allowing all of his accusers to speak, if they want to.
The first accuser to speak was not a patient of Nassar’s, but a family friend. In an emotional speech that left several people in the courtroom weeping, Kyle Stephens recounted the trauma of the first time she said she was molested at Nassar’s house and the deep family rift it caused when she told her parents of the abuse and they didn’t believe her.
Here’s an excerpt of her testimony, via CNN. Be advised: It contains graphic details of sexual assault.
On Monday, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles added herself to the long list of Nassar’s victims, which also includes gymnastics champions McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Gabby Douglas.
In a letter posted to Twitter, 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. There are many reasons that i have been reluctant to share my story, but I know now that it is not my fault. …
“For too long I’ve asked myself, ‘Was I too naive? Was it my fault?’ I now know the answer to those questions. No. No, it was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others.”
Moments after Biles’ post went up, Raisman, her former teammate, posted a photograph of the two Olympians holding hands.
Raisman also tweeted she will not attend the sentencing hearing “because it is too traumatic.” But an impact letter she wrote will be read in court, she said.
Maroney says she suffered years of sexual abuse and “psychological trauma” perpetrated by Nassar, and in December 2016, she reached a settlement with USA Gymnastics. But according to a lawsuit, the agreement included nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses indicating that neither she nor her parents could reveal confidential details about the contract.
That means if Maroney chooses to speak at the sentencing hearing, it could lead to a $100,000 lawsuit. That prompted model and actress Chrissy Teigen to offer to cover the cost of the fine on Maroney’s behalf.
Maroney is fighting the terms of the non-disclosure agreement in a lawsuit filed against the United States Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State in December. The New York Times reports the lawsuit claims that Maroney was forced into signing the clauses and confidentiality provisions.
Nassar, 54, has admitted to sexually assaulting minors. He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography in a federal case.
In November he confessed to digitally penetrating a total of 10 girls between 1998 and 2015. In many cases he convinced his victims it was part of a “special” treatment. Nassar’s admission was part of a plea deal in two Michigan counties, before two different judges.
After pleading guilty, the Lansing State Journal reports, Nassar expressed remorse over his actions.
“I think this is important, what I’ve done today to help move the community forward and away from the hurting, let the healing start,” Nassar said.
“For all those involved, I’m so horribly sorry that this was like a match that turned into a forest fire out of control,” he said.
The Michigan attorney general’s office is seeking 40 to 125 years in prison for Nassar. The Associated Press says the maximum represents a year for each of the 125 girls and women who filed reports of abuse with Michigan State University campus police.
Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina is expected to issue a sentence Friday.