Women abused by Nassar finally have their day in court

By Jennifer Cohron
Posted 1/26/18

In December, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman detailed the ongoing trauma of having been sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar in a post for the website The Players’ Tribune.

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Women abused by Nassar finally have their day in court

Posted

In December, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman detailed the ongoing trauma of having been sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar in a post for the website The Players’ Tribune.

Raisman wrote that she no longer trusts male doctors, feels anxious traveling alone, panics when she orders room service and a man delivers the food to her hotel room.

She described how her relationships have suffered and how she eventually grew to hate gymnastics, a sport she had loved for so long.

Raisman had written the victim impact statement and was prepared to read it in court on the day that Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges.

After the judge decided not to allow Raisman and five other women who had been abused by Nassar to read their statements, Raisman decided to go public with it because “this is part of my truth and part of my healing.”

Raisman also called out the long list of adults who protected Nassar, shaming his victims into silence.

“Abusers must never be protected. The power needs to shift to survivors,” Raisman wrote.

The balance of power shifted in Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s courtroom during a seven-day sentencing hearing that ended Wednesday with Nassar being sentenced to between 40 and 175 years in prison for sexual assault.

Technically, Nassar pled guilty to molesting seven young women, but Aquilina allowed Raisman and more than 150 other women to face him in court.

“Justice requires action and a voice and that is what has happened here in court — 168 buckets of water replaced on your so-called match that got out of control,” Aquilina told Nassar, a reference to his earlier statement that “this was like a match that turned into a forest fire.”

Although allowing victims to speak had been part of Nassar’s plea agreement, he decided early on that it would cause him too much mental anguish. In a six-page letter, he portrayed himself as a victim.

“You may find it harsh that you are here listening, but nothing is as harsh as what your victims endured for thousands of hours at your hand. Spending four or five days listening to them is significantly minor considering the hours of pleasure you had at their expense and ruining their lives,” Aquilina told him.

In the letter, Nassar also accused Aquilina of turning his sentencing into a media circus and forcing him to sit in the witness box so that all cameras would be on her.

Aquilina scoffed as she read from the letter, informing him that he was seated at the front of the room so that his accusers could look him in the eye as they addressed the court.

This time, it was Nassar who was shamed as Aquilina read from a letter in which he defended his assaults as legitimate medical treatments and suggested that his accusers were scorned women who had been manipulated by the media.

In fact, the women who filled Aquilina’s courtroom were girls when Nassar stole their innocence, and not all were famous gymnasts.

Kyle Stephens was 6 when Nassar began molesting her. When she finally had the courage to tell her parents, they not only didn’t believe her but forced her to apologize to her abuser.

“Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don't stay little forever. They turn into strong women who have come back to destroy your world,” Stephens told Nassar last week.

Aquilina, who showed nothing but contempt for Nassar, offered only words of encouragement for the women who stepped forward to face him.

“Leave your pain here, and go out and do your magnificent things,” she told one.

To Raisman, she said, “You are part of an unstoppable growing force, an unstoppable, strong, loud voice. The effects of your voice are far-reaching. It's not just in this courtroom, but worldwide.”

After the sentencing, Aquilina was hailed as an “avenging angel” and “hero for victims of sexual abuse.”

In spite of Nassar’s accusation that she has enjoyed the media spotlight, Aquilina has made it clear to journalists that she will have nothing more to say until after the appeals process is over. Even then, she has said that she will not grant interviews unless a sexual assault survivor is by her side because “it is their story.”