A long sentencing hearing this week for disgraced gymnastics physician Larry Nassar got off to a torrid start when a woman, who says she was sexually assaulted and molested by Nassar as a 6 year old, described how he ruined her life and family, and even helped to drive her father to kill himself.
Kyle Stephens was the first of almost 100 girls and women are planning to give statements in person against Nassar, the ex-team doctor for USA Gymnastics and a doctor at Michigan State University.
In the last year, Olympic gold medalists Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney have made public accusations of sexual abuse and sexual battery against the doctor. Most of the women who have given their testimony are not public figures, but the stories they tell are all similar in many regards.
Standing at a podium while Nassar shielded his face with his hand, Stephens talked about how he had assaulted her in his basement for many years. This included graphic sexual misconduct such as masterbating with lotion in front of her. He also rubbed her foot on his penis and violated her vagina with his fingers. Stephens said she had her first sexual experience against her will when she was five years old.
Nassar was a friend of her family; she was the only one who was not molested as a patient at his medical practice. She added in tears that her parents believed Nassar over her, and this led to her having terrible problems growing up. Stephens said the abuse fractured the relationship she had with her parents. When she left to attend college, she tried again to convince her father that Nassar had abused her. This time, he believed what she told him. She and her dad tried to get over the issue but he took his own life in 2016.
It is a near certainty that Nassar will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Below are details about the sentence that Nassar will receive this week:
- As part of the plea agreement Nassar made, the lower end of his prison sentence will be between 25 and 40 years. The maximum sentence he can receive is life in federal prison. The attorney general’s office in Michigan has requested the judge sentence the man to 40 to 125 years in prison. The 125 stands for the number of women and girls who reported him to the police. The plea agreement also noted that all 125 of the victims will have the chance to make statements at the sentencing if they choose to do so.
- Last December, Nassar was given a 60 year prison sentence on three federal charges of child pornography. These charges are related to computer equipment that law enforcement found in the garbage in his home while they were investigating sexual assault complaints. The judge who gave the sentence to Nassar also stated that he has to serve his federal prison sentence before he serves time for the state charges. Nassar has said he is going to appeal the federal sentence. If he served the full 60 year sentence, he would be 114 when he starts the state sentence.
- Nassar also has pleaded guilty to three sexual assault charges that involved patients he treated in Eaton County, Michigan at a gymnastics club. He will be sentenced on Jan. 31 on those charges.
- Nassar was employed by USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University for many years. Those organizations are facing federal civil lawsuits from more than 140 women and girls.
- More than 140 girls and women have taken part in federal civil lawsuits stating that Nassar had sexually assaulted them. Many of them claim that the alleged crimes happened at Michigan State. Others accused him of abuse in Texas at the Karolyi Ranch where the US women’s gymnastics team trains. Nassar has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree related to sexual abuse of nine women.
Long Term Sexual Abuse Not Difficult for Predators in Girls’ Gymnastics
The world of womens’ and girls’ gymnastics offers many possibilities for sexual abuse by sexual predators. The sport demands a lot of time and commitment from young women who want to compete at the highest levels in the sport. It is common for top female gymnasts and those aspiring for top status to have 4.5 hour practices from Monday through Friday, five hour practices each Saturday, and only Sundays off. Parents are usually able to observe much of the practices, but given their length and intensity, most parents drop their children off and trust them to the adult trainers and doctors.
In Nassar’s case, he worked at Great Lakes Gymnastics in Michigan with John Geddert, who is one of the top gymnastics coaches. Geddert coaching style was mostly based upon fear and intimidation; he would scream at gymnasts, causing many of them to cry. He also would throw things and deny gymnasts water.
But Nassar’s training room offered the gymnasts an escape from the intensity of Geddert. He played the good cop to Geddert’s bad cop, and it was common for Nassar to engage in sexually abusive behavior while he was helping athletes with injuries or flexibility. Some victims say they suspected at the time that Nassar was abusing them, but they were too frightened of Geddert to ever say anything.