- Gymnasts. Dancers. Figure skaters. Soccer players. Family friends. Larry Nassar's abuse was not limited to just the gymnastics world. Here, some of those survivors speak about their experiences.
One by one, the survivors walked up to the podium and shared their stories, in their own words in a courtroom in Ingham County, Mich. When all was said and done, 156 women and girls had spoken against former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar. Judge Rosemary Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in state prison to be served after his federal sentence of 60 years on child pornography charges.
Much of the focus has been on gymnastics and Olympic gymnasts specifically, but as each story was told it became clear: This was not just a gymnastics problem.
Nassar abused gymnasts. He abused dancers and figure skaters, too. He abused soccer players, softball players, basketball players, swimmers and rowers. He abused track and field athletes and cross-country runners. He abused non-athletes. He abused family friend Alexis Moore, who started seeing Nassar when she was nine years old, and said she was abused by him hundreds of times through the years.
"The first thing that came to mind was, 'I complained about that doctor.'" —CATRYINA BROWN, SURVIVOR
Catryina Brown is a reminder that not all of Nassar's abuse stemmed from his manipulation of the doctor-patient power imbalance. Brown worked at the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine as a simulated patient in 2008 and ’09. As a patient model, Brown worked with Nassar as he demonstrated how to perform pelvic and breast exams to medical students. She was trained to give feedback on the exams.According to court documents and interviews, during one simulated examination, Nassar did not drape Brown properly, leaving her exposed and placed his thumb on her clitoris during the exam. She immediately told Nassar that his hand was in an inappropriate position and reminded him that there were students there to learn how to do the procedure properly.
She recalled Nassar telling the students, “If you’re in a low-income area, you might have to talk down to your patients so that they understand you.” Brown was furious.
“I was uncomfortable throughout the exam and then he made that statement. I’m an African-American woman,” Brown says. “I was disgusted. I said to the students, ‘No matter where you are, you’re supposed to treat every patient equally [and] explain everything you’re doing.’”
After leaving the exam room, Brown explained her discomfort to her supervisor. The supervisor told Brown she would speak with Nassar and that Brown would not have to work with him again. That supervisor no longer works at Michigan State.
Brown didn’t see Nassar again until she noticed his photo on the local TV news in December 2016 in connection with allegations of sexual abuse.
“The first thing that came to mind was ‘I complained about that doctor.’”
She had a new supervisor by then and after speaking with her, Brown was directed to human resources. She was sent to the Office of Institutional Equity and then to MSU police detective Angela Munford. Brown says that when Munford got in touch with her previous supervisor, the woman did not recall Brown’s complaint.
"I didn't know what the consequences of being a victim would be and I wasn't sure that I wanted to admit to myself that's what I was." —MORGAN MCCAUL, SURVIVOR
Morgan McCaul was a dancer. She was 12 when she began seeing Nassar at his office for a hip injury in 2012. She was treated by him again in early 2014 for back pain and continued seeing him until the spring of 2015. At least some of that treatment occurred after Nassar had been given new protocols to follow after a 2014 investigation at Michigan State. Those protocols included having a chaperone in the exam room and minimizing skin-to-skin contact. Nassar did not abide by the protocols.
It took McCaul, who’s now 18, time to come to terms with the thought that she was a victim of sexual assault. “I just felt sick for a really long time. I tried to deny it to myself still. I didn’t want to see him as a predator,” McCaul says. “I wanted to tell myself he was still a good guy. I was also really ashamed. I didn’t tell my mom for a significant period of time. I didn’t know what the consequences of being a victim would be and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to admit to myself that that’s what I was.”
McCaul came forward publicly in December and spoke at Nassar’s sentencing hearing. “For the past year I felt really alone and in a dark place,” McCaul says. “After meeting with a couple of other [survivors] and feeling their support, I felt empowered to come forward right now and hopefully use this as a tool to not only give support to other victims, but to lift up other people to make them realize they don’t deserve to be treated this way.”
"There comes a point where you're just like, 'I've been okay for a while, but really I'm not." —JESSICA SMITH, SURVIVOR
Jessica Smith was also a dancer. She was 17 when she saw Nassar in 2012 to treat an ankle injury.
“You’re told, ‘This is medical treatment.’ So I’m like ‘I’m uncomfortable. But this is helping me, this is treatment. I’m okay. This is okay. What’s happening to me is okay,’” Smith says. “You feel it starting [to get to you] but you’re like ‘I’m okay.’ And things start to come out and I still tell myself, ‘No, that didn’t happen, I’m okay.’
When Nassar was arrested on child pornography charges in December 2016, it clicked.
“Then the allegations start to come out and the report comes out, but somewhere [in my mind] I’m still okay. Then I have these terrible migraines and I’m not sleeping. And there comes a point where you’re just like ‘I’ve been okay for awhile, but really [I’m not].’”
Smith is now a dance instructor with pupils ranging from age four to their 20s. “When I look at my students, I want to say ‘I am fighting now to make a change so that you don’t have to deal with this,’” she says.
"I didn't want to be identified as a number. I had this realization that I didn't need to feel this fear and shame and hide anymore." —STEPHANIE ROBINSON, SURVIVOR
Stephanie Robinson was a runner. She was 14 when she saw Nassar for a hip injury in 2014. She spoke on the second day of the sentencing and had planned to remain anonymous until the night before she gave her statement. Ultimately, she decided that she no longer wanted to hide. “I didn’t want to be identified as a number, I wanted to have a name and a face been attached to my story and my impact statement,” Robinson says. “Prior to giving my statement, I felt like I wanted to hide what happened to me. I didn’t want people to know, I was afraid of what they’d think [and] felt shameful of it. I had this realization that I didn’t need to feel this fear and shame and hide anymore.”
Robinson, now 17, was still a patient of Nassar’s as late as August 2016, just weeks before he was dismissed by Michigan State. He had stepped down from his duties at USA Gymnastics nearly a full year earlier, but there was no reason given publicly, so athletes kept going to him and coaches kept sending their athletes to him.
Had Michigan State listened to the number of women who had complained about Nassar over the years, spanning back to a complaint to MSU officials in 1997, Robinson would never have met Nassar. “If one person had taken action and they had fired him or filed a report against him, I would never have [seen] him and I wouldn’t be going through this right now,” Robinson says.
"I was thinking about the big picture and knew I wanted to speak up for the little girls and young women who hadn't yet found their strength or voice yet." —JENNIFER HAYES, SURVIVOR
Jennifer Hayes was a figure skater. She was coach of Michigan State's synchronized figure skating team when she met Nassar in 1999. She was being treated for lingering back, ankle and hip injuries.
In January 2017, she ran across news reports of Nassar being arrested on child pornography charges. “I knew that the ‘medical treatment’ he performed on me all those years ago was not legitimate treatment. But that I had been molested, and more than once,” Hayes says. “For years I was in denial, tried to suppress the pain and didn’t want to accept that it was anything more than new legitimate osteopathic procedures to help my back pain. That night in January, all my pain and suffering I had bottled up for 17 years just turned into pure anger.”
There was fear and guilt too. She questioned whether she could have stopped others from being assaulted. “I knew right away I wanted to be involved in the legal process as much as possible,” Hayes says. “I wanted to ensure he was going to be in prison for the rest of his life. But also, I was thinking about the big picture and knew I wanted to speak up for the little girls and young women who hadn’t yet found their strength or voice yet. This cannot happen to another girl ever again.” Hayes made a criminal complaint to the Michigan State police in February 2017.
"How could he do that to me? I trusted him. I trusted Kathie. How could she do that to me?" —LARISSA BOYCE, SURVIVOR
Larissa Boyce was a gymnast. She was a member of the MSU youth gymnastics program and, at 16, aspired to be on the MSU gymnastics team. She was one of the first to report that she was uncomfortable with Nassar’s “treatments” and expressed her discomfort to then–Michigan State head coach Kathie Klages. Klages didn’t believe her.
Klages told Boyce that she must be mistaken, that Nassar would never do anything inappropriate. She then asked other gymnasts, including some on the MSU team, to come in to tell Boyce that they did not feel uncomfortable. Klages told Boyce that while she could make a report, that there would be consequences for both Boyce and Nassar if she did so. Boyce did not file a report. In January 2017, she began to think back to her appointments with Nassar.
“When I walked around [Jenison Field House] so many memories and details just came flooding back that I’d suppressed for so long,” she says. “I had two weeks of not being able to function. I would cry uncontrollably—and I’m not a crier—trying to come to terms with it. How could he do that to me? I trusted him. I trusted Kathie. How could she do that to me?”
"A nine-year-old doesn't know any better." –ALEXIS MOORE, SURVIVOR
Alexis Moore was a gymnast too, and also a friend of the Nassar family. Nassar had known her since she was born. “I was nine years old when he first started doing that ‘treatment’ to me. A nine-year-old doesn’t know any better,” Moore says. “By the time I was 15 and probably would have [questioned it], it was normal. He said it was healing my hamstrings or my back. I trusted him.”
Moore’s purpose in coming forward is “to ensure there are no more nine-year-olds who have to endure that,” she says. “I work with children every day. I think it’s my responsibility to help stop these predators from preying on little girls.”
"I wanted to say this happened to me. This didn't happen to a Jane Doe." —REBECCA MARK, SURVIVOR
Christine Harrison played soccer. She met Nassar when she was 14 or 15, and came forward publicly late last year. “It wasn’t something initially I thought I was going to do. But I thought it was important for me to show our faces in our community because this has happened in this area,” she says. “There were a lot of other girls in the area who were assaulted and [I wanted to be] someone that they could come and talk to. He took our power away from us before and he’s not going to do that again.”
Rebecca Mark was a soccer player too. She was 15 when she was treated by Nassar for a back injury. She says she has some wonderful memories of playing high school soccer but that Nassar inevitably intrudes on them.
“I have to think about this man who did this terrible thing and he has put a pale on that team sports dynamic and the great things that come from that,” Mark says. “It can’t just be a great, positive story about extracurricular sports being fantastic. Now that story has to include ‘and here’s [what] this guy was doing.’ ”
Mark says that her decision to go public was “gut-wrenching,” but ultimately she decided she “was not embarrassed or ashamed if someone Googled my name and Googled his name and this is the thing that popped up. That’s not something I need to be embarrassed about. I wanted to say this happened to me. This didn’t happen to a Jane Doe.”
"The more I thought about it, the more I was like, 'Wow, the same thing happened to me.'" —KAYLEE LORINCZ, SURVIVOR
Jessica Tarrant and Kaylee Lorincz were gymnasts. Tarrant was 14 when she was assaulted in 2010 while seeking treatment for back pain.
“While I might not have known to stand up, other girls did,” says Tarrant, who is a sergeant in the Marines stationed overseas. “The first one reported was in . I was born in 1996. But 14 years later when I saw him, he was still doing it.”
Lorincz vividly recalls the details of her appointment with Nassar. As she read the initial Indianapolis Star story, the details of that appointment began to replay in her mind. “The more I thought about it, the more I was like, ‘Wow, the same thing happened to me,’” Lorincz says. “I got this pit in my stomach and my mom talked about it with me the next day. That’s when we really decided [if] we wanted to go forward with reporting it or leave it alone. I could not leave something like this alone to let it happen to other people.”