A steady procession of girls, women, and mothers stood to face Larry Nassar today for the fifth day of his extensive sentencing hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court in Lansing, Michigan. When the hearing began, 88 people were scheduled to give statements on Nassar’s serial sexual abuse, but now 144 victim impact statements are expected to be heard in court. They will continue tomorrow.
Bailey Lorencen was the first gymnast to speak Monday, demonstrating to the court that because Nassar chose to abuse her instead of actually treat her medical needs, she’s suffered worsening back problems, possibly as a result of being referred to Nassar. Lorencen was previously anonymous, and was the 90th athlete to speak in front of the court.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina continued to offer sympathy and consolation to the athletes speaking in front of the court, as she has done throughout the extensive hearing. After Lorencen spoke Monday, Aquilina told her that “the military has not come up with fiber as strong as you,” and that “Mattel ought to make toys, so little girls can look at you and say, ‘I want to be just like her.’”
During her statement, Lorencen criticized attorney Shannon Smith for representing Nassar. Later in the hearing, Aquilina reminded the court that every defendant has a constitutional right to representation.
After an emotional statement, gymnast Clasina Syrovy, said about Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon: “She is a coward, and doesn’t deserve to hold the title of MSU President.” On Friday, the Michigan State Board of Trustees released a statement saying that Simon intends to stay in her job.
Fifteen-year-old gymnast Emma Ann Miller told the court that she believes she is the last gymnast to be abused by Nassar, as he was fired by Michigan State shortly after she received “treatment” from him. She told the judge that her mother is still receiving bills from Michigan State for her visits with Nassar, during which she says she was assaulted.
Gymnast Taylor Livingston gave an emotional statement on the audacity of Nassar’s abuse, telling the court that she remembered Nassar putting his bare fingers in her as part of what was supposed to be a therapeutic treatment on her calves, while her father was sitting in the room. This conveys the extent to which athletes, their families, and other adults around them were told of Nassar’s expertise and trusted him. Livingston said she saw Nassar from 2009 to 2014, and that she was 13 years old when she began to see him. She told the court that her father died in January 2017 without knowing about her sexual abuse. Livingston said: “Life is a chore. Life is a constant fight. I don’t trust anyone, and I am never comfortable. I keep my feelings to myself because for so long I felt I had to.”
Multiple athletes decided to remain anonymous. One, who had given a statement anonymously last week, asked Michigan Radio reporter Kate Wells to release a written version on her behalf:
A theme prevalent in many of the statements given Monday and throughout the hearing was the manner in which Nassar told his victims the egregious abuses he inflicted upon them were uncomfortable, but the preferred treatments for their injuries.
Cate Hannum, who was a rower at Michigan State, had a statement read in court that said Nassar once pretended to treat her rib injury by massaging her breast while a trainer was in the room. Hannum’s statement went on:
She goes on to describe the abuse, “you were abrasive and careless.” She wishes she had been self-assured enough at the time to stand up for herself. The physical aspect of the abuse is not what haunts her, it’s the being brainwashed. “This has me questioning everything.” She says Nassar would walk around the room with an erection.
She says three other young women shared stories of abuse with her while she was in college. Their insistence that it wasn’t abuse, stopped her from speaking out. She still struggles with the emotional repercussions of the abuse, and has a hard time trusting people. She says there are very few men she would consider hugging, because that is how Nassar would end their appointments.
The victim impact statements will continue tomorrow.