Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, sexual abuse survivors give impact statements during Larry Nassar hearing
Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman delivered a forceful speech in court Friday, praising the “army of survivors” who have spoken out against former team doctor Larry Nassar.
“The tables have turned Larry,” she said. “We are here. We have our voices, and we are not going anywhere.”
Raisman also accused USA Gymnastics of “rotting from the inside” and called on its new leader, Kerry Perry, to take responsibility and stop issuing statements full of empty promises.
“Where is the honesty? Where is the transparency? Why must the manipulation continue?” she asked.
The gymnast’s statement came on the fourth day of a remarkable weeklong sentencing for Nassar, the former doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. He has pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County, Michigan, and admitted to sexually assaulting and abusing young girls under the guise of providing medical treatment.
Raisman, who won three gold medals for the US women’s gymnastics team in 2012 and 2016, said Friday that she represented USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee at two Olympics, but they had not reciprocated.
“They have been quick to capitalize on my success,” she said. “But did they reach out when I came forward? No.”
Raisman had said on Twitter last week she did not plan to attend Nassar’s sentencing, but she said she decided to do so after watching the proceedings from afar.
Earlier Friday in court, Olympic gymnast Jordyn Wieber said she, too, was sexually abused by Nassar during her time at USA Gymnastics.
“I thought that training for the Olympics would be the hardest thing that I would ever have to do, but in fact, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is process that I’m a victim of Larry Nassar,” Wieber said.
Wieber’s statement made her the fourth member of the 2012 women’s gymnastics team, known as the “Fierce Five,” to say Nassar abused them. A written statement from McKayla Maroney was read into court Thursday, and Gabby Douglas has also said publicly the former team doctor abused her.
“But even though I’m a victim, I do not and will not live my life as one,” Wieber said. “I’m an Olympian. Despite being abused, I worked so hard and managed to achieve my goal.”
As of Friday morning, more than 70 victims have stared down Nassar and spoken out about how he affected their lives in defiant, tear-filled statements. In all, 120 women are expected to speak about Nassar’s abuse, according to prosecutors. The statements could last into Tuesday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said.
Nassar has also pleaded guilty to three charges in Eaton County, Michigan, and he has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for federal child pornography charges.
Tales of abuse and anxiety
Many of the victims — or survivors, as they have also been called in court — have reserved harsh words for Nassar, who they said used his power and professional renown in the sports community for his own sexual gratification.
But they have also targeted institutions that they say enabled Nassar for more than two decades. USA Gymnastics and Michigan State have separately said they reported Nassar’s abuse immediately when they learned about it, but a number of victims said they told authorities about the abuse years ago and were ignored.
“Michigan State University, the school I loved and trusted, had the audacity to tell me that I did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure,” Amanda Thomashow said at sentencing.
“That master manipulator took advantage of his title, he abused me, and when I found the strength to talk about what had happened, I was ignored and my voice was silenced.”
That criticism has not gone unheard.
On Thursday, USA Gymnastics cut ties with the Karolyi Ranch, the women’s gymnastics training facility where gymnasts said abuse went unchecked.
USA Gymnastics issued this statement Friday:
“As announced yesterday, USA Gymnastics has terminated its agreement with the Karolyi Ranch. The development camp taking place through Sunday is the last USA Gymnastics activity at the Ranch.
“Next week’s training camp for the U.S. Women’s National Team is cancelled and the Acro World Team Trials scheduled for the first week in February has been relocated. We are exploring alternative sites to host all training activities and camps until a permanent location is determined.”
And on Friday, Michigan State’s Board of Trustees asked the Michigan attorney general to review the Nassar case, according to a statement CNN obtained.
“The testimony of Nassar’s victims this week made many of us, including me, listen to the survivors and the community in a different way,” said university President Lou Anna K. Simon, who attended court Wednesday. “It is clear to the board and me that a review by the attorney general’s office can provide the answers people need.”
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette agreed to take on a “review, report and recommendation” of what happened at the university, he said in a statement.
John Manly, an attorney representing more than 100 women in civil lawsuits, said the move was “too little, too late.”
“The only reason Ms. Simon asked for (an investigation) today is because MSU’s culpability has been exposed,” he said.
United States Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Jones issued this statement:
“We were first made aware of the possibility that a USA Gymnastics physician had sexually abused USA Gymnastics athletes in the summer of 2015 when we were informed by USA Gymnastics. At that time USA Gymnastics indicated that they were in the process of contacting the appropriate law enforcement agencies. We are heartbroken that this abuse occurred, proud of the brave victims that have come forward and grateful that our criminal justice system has ensured that Nassar will never be able to harm another young woman. We are hopeful that with the U.S . Center for SafeSport’s continued education and prevention efforts, as well as their investigative and adjudicative authority, we will help ensure that tragedies like this will never happen again.
“We have proactively arranged for multiple independent reviews of our safe sport policies and practices since 2010. We are open to any further process or review that could lead to a safer environment for athletes who participate in Olympic and Paralympic sports.
“We have been in active communication with leadership at USA Gymnastics about the Daniels Report and its overriding recommendation that the culture of USA Gymnastics must change. We will stay actively engaged with USA Gymnastics on this subject until we are confident that meaningful change has occurred.“