More than two dozen women who said they were sexually abused by Larry Nassar, dating back to the early 1990s, gave victim-impact statements today in a Ingham County, Mich., courtroom. The statements were read ahead of Nassar’s sentence on 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Together, their words painted a horrific picture of Nassar’s unabated, predatory behavior as he preyed on women and girls as young as 6 years old, all while he enjoyed the highest levels of success in his field. This was just the first day of a process that’s scheduled to take until Friday.
Kyle Stephens, who spoke early in the morning, had some of the most powerful words of the day. Stephens was abused by Nassar from when she was 6 years old until she was 12, and she said that Nassar masturbated in front of her, rubbed his penis on her bare feet, and inserted his finger into her vagina. Her statement felt, in some ways, like a triumph, emphasizing Nassar’s abrupt fall from his position of power and the strength of the women who made that happen.
“Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world,” Stephens said.
Donna Markham brought many in the courtroom to tears with her heart-wrenching statement. Donna was the mother of Chelsea Markham, who was molested by Nassar with Donna in the room when she was just 10 years old. Chelsea committed suicide when she was 23.
“Every day, I miss her,” Markham said. “I miss her. And it all started with him.”
Jennifer Rood-Bedford, a former volleyball player at Michigan State, spoke of forgiveness in her statement, saying “What you’ve done, those choices you’ve made, is not who God intended you to be ... You can choose to be a better man.” Nassar was crying as she spoke.
Michigan State University—Nassar’s employer before, during, and after a police invesitgation into Nassar’s criminal sexual misconduct—didn’t escape criticism, including from Olivia Cowen, a mother of two who was abused by Nassar 10 years ago.
“I’d like to take a moment to comment to MSU’s board of trustees and president Simon ... It sickens me that for 16 months, you allowed children to see Larry Nassar under your guidance, while he was under criminal investigation,” Cowan said.
“Where were you when we needed you?” she asked.
No Michigan State officials attended the hearing. In a statement, an MSU spokesperson said that President Lou Anna Simon (whom Cowen called “a coward”) and Board of Trustee Chairperson Brian Breslin weren’t in the courtroom because they didn’t want to take the focus away from the victims.
A victim who wished to remain anonymous—identified as Victim 125—succinctly summarized the limited ability of any court to truly serve justice to all the women who suffered irreplaceable and uncountable loss, and the continuing damage Nassar’s abuse will cause.
“You took something from us that we will never get back. Our innocence. Our virginities,” she said. “You were rewarded with prestigious roles. You went to the Olympics.”
Of the 125 women who filed police reports about Nassar’s abuse, 98 chose to take the opportunity to give a victim-impact statement. That means there are still over 60 women scheduled to speak before the end of the week. Nassar, who is already imprisoned for federal child pornography charges, is expected to be sentenced on Friday. On Jan. 31, he’ll be sentenced in Eaton County for three other counts of criminal sexual conduct.