22 more Nassar survivors deliver tearful tales of abuse

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Another 22 women, including star Olympic gymnasts Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman, told an Ingham County court Friday about the years of sexual abuse they endured from Larry Nassar, the once distinguished but now disgraced former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor.

So far, 91 women or teenage girls have stepped forward to deliver powerful statements to the court, recounting how Nassar used his status and emotional cunning to manipulate survivors into not reporting his crimes.

Jordyn Wieber makes her impact statement about Larry Nassar in court Friday in Lansing.

Among them was Wieber, a DeWitt native and Olympic gold medalist who stepped forward to describe the emotional turmoil, doubt and shame she suffered through after Nassar sexually abused her during the 2012 Olympic games in London.

Wieber’s statements came on the fourth day of Nassar’s sentencing hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court. Nassar treated other Olympic gymnasts and worked at MSU and Twistars USA Gymnastics club in the Lansing area.

Friday marked the first time Wieber had made a public statement about Nassar’s abuse.

“It caused me to feel shame and confusion … I became so brainwashed by Larry and everyone at USA Gymnastics,” Wieber told Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.

Wieber said Nassar treated her from ages 8 to 18 for all of her injuries and convinced her, like other victims, that his molestation was routine medical treatment to relieve pain.

“Now I question everything,” Wieber said in court. “To this day, I still don’t know how he could have been allowed to do this for so long.”

Wieber said she holds USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee accountable for not stopping Nassar.

Kerry Perry, president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, said in a statement that she personally attended court proceedings “to listen to the courageous women as they faced a despicable predator and explained in significant and painful detail the impact he had on each of their lives.”

Jordyn Wieber arrives in Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina's courtroom during the fourth day of sentencing for former sports doctor Larry Nassar, who pled guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault, Friday in Lansing.

“I will not waver on my commitment to remain focused each and every day on our ... organization’s highest priority — the safety, health and well-being of our athletes and creating a culture that empowers and supports them.”

But Raisman, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who was Wieber’s teammate in 2012, said in court on Friday that Nassar abused her during the games that year and that she holds the U.S. gymnastics governing board and Olympic committee responsible for not stopping Nassar.

“It was like being abused all over again,” said Raisman, describing how USA Gymnastics celebrated her and her teammates’ 2012 and 2016 Olympic success.

Other victims stepped forward to describe Nassar’s abuse, including former MSU track and field pole vaulter Kassie Powell, who said she realized only years later that she had been sexually abused.

“You would tuck a towel in the back of my shorts as you spread cocoa butter and massage my lower back with your left hand while your right hand made its way past my back, in my shorts, under the towel and stick your gloveless dry fingers inside of me so hard I’d want to scream,” Powell told him.

“You are a thief, Larry Nassar.”

Another victim, Trenea Gonzcar, said she was friends with Nassar for 30 years. Nassar cried as she spoke about how he betrayed her trust by abusing her hundreds of times — the first tears he shed during Friday’s statements.

“I never doubted you,” she told Nassar. “I never felt scared of you. We literally loved you like family because we thought you loved us back.”

Larissa Boyce, believe to be the first person to tell someone at MSU about Nassar’s sexual abuse, was the last to testify Friday, saying the sports doctor “altered my life forever.”

Boyce, a former gymnast first treated by Nassar at age 16 in 1997, said he used his status to isolate her and other young athletes.

“Larry had adults on his side, protecting him, enabling his abuse and helping him achieve a God-like status,” she said.

She also criticized Kathie Klages, the ex-MSU women’s gymnastics coach who Boyce said she told about Nassar’s abuse. Klages, who retired in February, has declined comment to The Detroit News.

“You and Kathie silenced me,” Boyce told Nassar. “You took away my confidence. You took away my innocence, and you took away my voice, but today is a new day. Today, I am claiming my freedom from you.”

A Detroit News investigation found that at least 14 representatives at MSU were informed of sexual misconduct complaints against Nassar over two decades. Among those notified was President Lou Anna Simon, who was told in 2014 that a Title IX complaint and police report had been filed against an unnamed physician.

Nassar pleaded guilty in November to charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in the Ingham County court. Prosecutors are asking for a sentence of 40 to 125 years. Prosecutors seek a sentence of 40 to 125 years.

At least another 26 victims will testify after the hearing resumes Monday — perhaps more if others come forward.