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Testimony: Nassar’s massage treatment ‘hurt a lot’

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News
Dr. Larry Nassar listens as a young woman who was a former family friend speaks about alleged abuse by Nassar in court Friday. Later, 55th District Court Judge Donald Allen Jr., ruled there was enough evidence in court February 17, 2017 for Nassar to stand trial on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person under 13.

Mason — A 16-year-old girl testified Friday that a former Michigan State University sports doctor accused of sexually abusing patients had a reputation among gymnasts for being “touchy” and hurt her when he digitally penetrated her during treatment of her heel.

An 18-year-old woman testified that when she sought treatment for back pain from Larry Nassar — a renowned osteopathic physician at MSU and lead physician for USA Gymnastics — she told him that she felt better when he was inserting his fingers inside her “because I wanted it to stop.”

And a 17-year-old girl testified that after Nassar penetrated her vagina and anus with his fingers for back pain when she was 11 years old, human touch has not been the same.

“I am very uncomfortable being touched in any shape or form,” said the girl.

The three former gymnasts are among seven females testifying in a preliminary hearing against Nassar in a case in which he faces 15 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for behavior during medical treatments of gymnasts. Friday’s proceedings were a continuation of a hearing that began May 12 and will resume June 23 with more testimony.

The charges stem from some females who came forward starting in September when allegations emerged against Nassar for treating injured female athletes with a procedure that involved him digitally penetrating them without a glove, lubricant or consent.

Of the seven females testifying during the proceedings, three are minors and one recently turned 18.

Nassar’s case — which is being heard in 55th District Court near Lansing in Ingham County — involves only a handful of women who have come forward. More than 100 women have filed civil lawsuits against him, and 100 have filed complaints with MSU police.

Nassar, 53, faces additional criminal sexual conduct charges in Easton County, and child pornography charges in federal court. Also, after a preliminary hearing in February in 55th District Court, Judge Donald L. Allen Jr. ordered Nassar to stand trial in October on three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a person younger than 13.

Allen will also determine if Nassar should face a trial in the proceedings .

Nassar has pleaded not guilty in the matters.

The first girl to testify, known as Victim A, said she was 11 years old, she went to see Nassar at his MSU office for a heel injury. Nassar told her and her father that there was a massage he could do to loosen up her foot and gave her father the option to wait outside the room, which he did.

The girl added that Nassar left her alone to change into loose-fitting shorts and when he returned the other medical employee wasn’t with him. Nassar started to massage her thigh and then massaged her vaginal area, ultimately digitally penetrating her for 30 to 45 minutes, she testified.

“It hurt a lot,” she said. “I remember lots of pain.”

She didn’t tell Nassar that he was hurting her because she was embarrassed and thought that it must be a legitimate medical procedure.

Nassar didn’t tell her father or her that the massage would involve digital vaginal penetration, and he didn’t get consent to do so, she testified. She added that he wasn’t wearing gloves when he penetrated her with his fingers.

The lack of gloves was a red flag for her, she testified, after she read an Indianapolis Star report in September that detailed the accounts of two women who said Nassar sexually assaulted them during medical appointments. One of those women, Rachael Denhollander, is a reported victim in the case and testified May 12.

Victim A is a reported victim in the criminal case against Nassar in Eaton County. A preliminary hearing in that case, which will include the girl testifying again, is set for June 30. Part of her testimony on Friday included a treatment at Gedderts’ Twistars Gymnastics Club in Dimondale where Nassar massaged her vaginal area. Twistars is located in Eaton County.

She testified the months since coming forward haven’t been easy.

“There have been lots of nights where I just cried and cried,” said the girl, adding she feels like Nassar violated her trust.

The 18-year-old woman, known as Victim E, testified that she saw Nassar for the first time in 2011 when she was 12 and was thrilled because he “was the best doctor I could see in the gymnasts world.”

It was either the second or third visit when things were different, she said. He was massaging her back, then moved her shorts and underwear away from her body and inserted two fingers into her vagina for 15-20 minutes. He made comments while his fingers were inside of her, and her dad was in the room, she said.

“Does this feel better?” Victim E testified that Nassar said to her. “Does this take your pain away?”

Nassar took his fingers out of her, then reinserted them a second time, Victim E testified. He continued to ask her if it felt better during the 15-20 minutes his fingers were inside of her.

Victim E said Nassar called the procedure myofascial release, and she told him that she felt better.

“I said it felt better because I wanted him to stop,” she said.

The first time she told anyone about what happened to her was last year, when media reports were emerging about the investigation into Nassar. She testified that she didn’t want to come forward because of fear she wouldn’t be believed. She also said it’s taken away from her senior year in high school, and also impacted her profoundly.

“I don't really trust anybody anymore,” Victim E said.

Meanwhile, the 17-year-old girl, known as Victim B, testified that she saw Nassar five times for back pain and each time she saw him, something uncomfortable happened. She was 11 years old.

Nassar would go from massaging her butt to moving her shorts and then he would insert his fingers into her vagina on an exam table. He also inserted what she believed to be his thumb into her anus, “cupping” her, Victim B testified. Her mom was in the room but Nassar was positioned so he blocked her view, she said.

There wasn’t much conversation between them during the procedure, but once he did ask her a question.

“Is this alright, goof?” Victim B testified.

She said she it felt “highly uncomfortable.”

But she testified she was getting better as she was simultaneously seeing a physical therapist.

The first person she told was her significant other when she was 16, then later her parents when news of the investigation emerged.

“It was something that made me uncomfortable,” Victim B said. “It was not something I enjoyed telling people.”

Upon cross examination, Nassar’s attorneys questioned the victims of whether they had talked with other gymnasts about Nassar, if they felt better after treatments and whether they came forward after learning more about the investigation into Nassar.

When attorney Matt Newburg asked Victim B if her pain level decreased with each appointment you had, she said, “Yes.”

When he asked what happened after she learned more about the investigation into Nassar, Victim B said: "It was very easy to picture what was happening to those girls because it was very similar to what happened to me.”

Prior to the three victims’ testimony, Newburg cross-examined another victim — Victim D — about her injuries after she began seeing Nassar for pain in her hamstring.

He asked the girl, a minor, about her history and injuries in gymnastic training — and whether treatments in 2014 by Larry Nassar lead to improvement in pain after appointments with him.

“Yes,” the victim said.

Upon redirect, Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis asked the girl how she felt when Nassar inserted a finger into her vagina without a glove.

“Uncomfortable, yucky,” said Victim D, who testified two weeks ago that no one had touched her in that area as a 13-year-old.

How did she feel after treatments that did not involve penetration, Povilaitis asked her.

“I felt fine,” said the girl, now 16.

Two weeks ago, Denhollander, a former Kalamazoo resident and gymnast now living in Louisville, Kentucky, testified that Nassar touched her clitoris, massaged her breast and became physically aroused, in addition to penetrating her vaginally and anally during sessions to relive pain. Meanwhile, another woman testified that she received treatments from Nassar in his home because she didn’t want to wait hours in line at Twistars to see him.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com