LANSING, United States (AFP) - Victims of disgraced former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar delivered raw emotional testimony at his sentencing hearing on Tuesday (Jan 16), recounting the wrenching trauma and scars from his sexual abuse.
“He betrayed my trust, took advantage of my youth and sexually abused me hundreds of times,” former gymnast Alexis Moore told the extraordinary court hearing in Lansing, Michigan.
“Are you remorseful for your actions and all the lives you have changed forever?” Moore asked, addressing the 54-year-old Nassar directly.
The slight, bespectacled Nassar, dressed in blue prison garb, spent most of the time looking down as the young women and girls spoke, occasionally holding his head in his handcuffed hands.
Some victims chose to be identified and testify publicly while others spoke anonymously.
Nassar, who could face life in prison, has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing young girls under the guise of medical treatment.
Another former gymnast, Jade Capua, said the abuse by Nassar was a “life-changing experience that stole my innocence far too young.” “I’m really proud of you,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said after she completed her testimony.
“Your scar turned into a powerful voice,” she told Capua. “Thank you for your bravery.” Olivia Cowan, who has two daughters of her own, said she suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and is afraid to send her children to birthday parties or sleepovers.
“If you can’t trust a world renowned doctor who in this world can you trust?” Cowan said through tears.
‘LITTLE GIRLS DON'T STAY LITTLE FOREVER’
Among those who testified was Donna Markham, the mother of former gymnast Chelsea Markham, who was abused by Nassar from the age of 10 years old.
Markham said her daughter quit gymnasics when she was 13, suffered from depression and took her own life in 2009.
The first woman to testify was Kyle Stephens, who was a friend of the Nassar family and the only victim not affiliated with his medical practice.
“You used my body for six years for your own sexual gratification,” Stephens said. “That is unforgivable.” Stephens said she believed her father’s suicide in 2016 was brought about in part by his one-time defense of Nassar.
“You convinced my parents that I was liar,” Stephens said.
“Admittedly my father was experiencing debilitating health issues but had he not had to bear the shame and self-loathing that stemmed from his defense of Larry Nassar I believe he would have had a fighting chance for his life,” Stephens said.
Addressing Nassar directly, she said: “Perhaps you have figured it out by now that little girls don’t stay little forever.
“They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.” According to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, nearly 100 women and girls are expected to deliver victim impact statements.
BILES REVEALS ABUSE
The sentencing hearing, which could last several days, comes a day after US gymnastics superstar Simone Biles revealed that she was among those sexually abused by Nassar.
“I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar,” the 20-year-old reigning Olympic all-around champion and 10-time World Championship medallist said on Twitter.
Biles’ teammates Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas are also among the members of USA Gymnastics squads who have said they were sexually assaulted by Nassar.
Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison in December on child pornography charges.
He could be jailed for life following the current sentencing hearing on separate sexual assault charges to which he has already pleaded guilty.
Nassar has been accused of molesting more than 100 female athletes during the three decades he worked with USA Gymnastics and at Michigan State University.
His case was part of a wide-ranging scandal which forced the resignation of USA Gymnastics chief Steve Penny in March last year.
Penny was accused by victims of failing to quickly to notify authorities about abuse allegations.
USA Gymnastics adopted a new “safe sport policy” in response to the Nassar scandal that requires “mandatory reporting” of suspicions of sexual abuse.
A civil lawsuit has been filed on behalf of about 100 of Nassar’s victims. Their attorney, John Manly, has said the total number could be as high as 160.