One after another, gymnasts and other victims stepped forward in a Michigan courtroom to recount the sexual abuse and emotional trauma Larry Nassar inflicted on them as children.
Nassar, who is the former USA Gymnastics team doctor, pleaded guilty to molesting girls with his hands at his Michigan State University office, his home and a Lansing-area gymnastics club, often while their parents were in the room. He also worked for Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.
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Victims, often referred to as survivors in the court room, described experiencing "searing pain" during the assaults and having feelings of shame and embarrassment. They said it had changed their life trajectories — affecting relationships, causing them to be distrustful and leading to depression, suicidal thoughts, anger and anxiety about whether they should have spoken up sooner.
Prosecutors are seeking at least 40 years in prison for Nassar, who has already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes. Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman have said they, too, were victims.
Related: Gabby Douglas accuses team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse
Raisman said Monday she would not attend the sentencing, but later changed her mind.
"I will not be attending the sentencing because it is too traumatic for me," Raisman tweeted. "My impact letter will be read in court in front of Nassar. I support the brave survivors. We are all in this together."
CNN reported that Raisman read her victim impact letter in court Friday in front of Nassar.
Credit: Matthew Dae Smith
Credit: Matthew Dae Smith
"I didn't think I would be here today. I was scared and nervous. It wasn't until I started watching the impact statements from the other brave survivors that I realized I, too, needed to be here," Raisman said, according to BuzzFeed News. "Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over so long a period of time, are now a force and you are nothing?"
Related: Signs a doctor may be a sexual predator
Raisman praised fellow survivors and called on USA Gymnastics CEO Kerry Perry to take responsibility for the organization, which Raisman said was “rotting from the inside.”
“A word of advice: Continuing to issue statements of empty promises thinking that will pacify us will no longer work,” Raisman said.
Nassar admitted in November that he digitally penetrated 10 girls, mostly under the guise of treatment, between 1998 and 2015. As part of plea deals in two adjacent Michigan counties, he said his conduct had no legitimate medical purpose and that he did not have the girls' consent.
Related: Simone Biles latest gymnast to claim team doctor sexually abused her
The criminal cases followed reports last year in The Indianapolis Star about how USA Gymnastics mishandled complaints about sexual misconduct involving him and coaches. Women and girls said the stories inspired them to step forward with detailed allegations of abuse.