(NEW YORK) — Scores of women confronted former USA Gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison Wednesday for sexually assaulting gymnasts and other young women under his care.
Nassar, 54, had pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving girls who were 15 years old or younger and faces sentencing next week after pleading guilty to three more counts in a nearby county.
He was led away in handcuffs at the conclusion of a seven-day sentencing hearing at which 156 women and girls gave victim impact statements in court or had them read on their behalf.
On Wednesday, after Nassar’s sentencing, “20/20” sat down with nearly two dozen of Nassar’s accusers to hear from them in their own words and highlight their powerful statements read in court.
(Taryn) Akemi Look
Actress Akemi Look told “20/20” she gave up her first name Taryn after 31 years because she associated it with a difficult part of her life. “Taryn represented my life as a gymnast and everything that came with it. The sacrifices, the abuse, the pain the all of it. And I really didn’t want to be associated about that anymore. Akemi is the name that for me is empowering because it’s me saying this is who I am and I am not who these other people made me to be.”
The former rhythmic gymnastics Junior Olympic Champion and U.S.A. National Team member said she chose to submit her victim impact statement to be read in court rather than testify in person at the sentencing hearing because, “the last thing that I wanted to do was stand in the same room as him.”
But after others deliver powerful testimonies on television, Look flew into Michigan for the sentencing hearing.
“Just to be in that courtroom today amongst everyone and all of us was so powerful because I had felt alone this whole time,” Look told “20/20.” “I mean at this point we have to change the world. We have to change the culture and we have to believe victims. We have to believe children.”
Castillo, who gave her testimony on Day 6 in court, said she saw Nassar when she was just 8 years old after fracturing her hip.
“He took away my confidence that I was developing at a young age,” she said in court. “By me speaking today [I’m] taking back a little bit of that feature that he stole from me. I’m getting some of that bravery and confidence back,” Castillo added. “I figured if I stayed silent I’m only letting him win.”
The 22-year-old former Twistars and Michigan State University gymnast, where Nassar served as the gymnastic team doctor for nearly two decades, told “20/20” she only told her teammates and sister about the abuse before this case because she “just didn’t think anybody would understand.”
But after reading her statement in court, Lorencen said a weight was lifted. “It was just liberating and it gives you the confidence in yourself that you need to feel like your voice does matter,” she told “20/20.”
“I’m glad that the judge gave him that … [sentence] to set a precedent,” Moore told “20/20.” “But I still don’t don’t think it really represents the pain and all of the emotions that all of us have gone through and all the other women out there.”
Moore accused Nassar of sexually abusing her over the course of multiple years as a teenager and said that led to self-destructive behavior. She has since earned two master’s and doctorate degrees. During her testimony in court Moore said, “I will no longer be known as a number, I will be known as Dr. Danielle Moore.”
Anderson said she first experienced abuse at the hands of Nassar in 1998. The now mother of two boys told “20/20” that she wants people to know that “gymnastics is still a good sport and there are some really bad apples that need to be removed from the basket of apples.”
Anderson said she hopes that all of the voices in this case prevent anything like this from happening in the future and show that “accepting abuse of kids is not acceptable … So making sure that the kids know we believe you we hear you will stand behind you.”
Weick alleged she was just 12 years old when Nassar abused her while her mother was in the room, and called him “a monster of a doctor,” during her victim impact statement in court.
“I just knew I had to get up there and I had to like put that shame on him. It’s just not mine anymore,” Weick told “20/20” of her decision to publicly stand up to Nassar.
Like many of Nassar’s victims, Hayes claimed her sexual abuse occurred during a treatment to realign her back and said in court that although he stole her confidence through sexual abuse and manipulation that she is regaining it. Hayes told “20/20” that she did not tell anyone about the abuse until Nassar was in custody because she was “in denial.”
Hayes also told “20/20” she believes that the women who came forward in this case are “just a drop in the bucket.”
“If he was doing this every day for over 20 years, on weekends, holidays, up until midnight on
Jennifer Rood Bedford
Bedford, a former Michigan State volleyball player who said she was abused by Nassar when she was 18 years old, told “20/20” that once other athletes started asking one another about Nassar’s treatments they realized they all shared similar encounters.
“You’re surrounded in an environment where athletes are joking about … behind [the] scenes. Everyone knows he works down there,” Bedford said, adding that “he was known as the crotch doc.”
“So you think, ‘I’m the only one that’s feeling uncomfortable with this.’ So again suck it up and stop being a baby, ‘suck it up buttercup, you’re an athlete,’ you press on and you move forward,” Bedford said.
Smith told “20/20”, “It shouldn’t take an army of women speaking in court for people to do something. It should take one person saying that this happened to them and them being believed and taken seriously.”
Smith was a dancer and said she first went to Nassar for severe ankle pain in 2012 and was abused.
“As athletes are our brain is looking straight to our goals our end result getting on stage or whether that’s gymnastics or soccer or ice skating, figure skating, dance we all as athletes worked so hard to get there that you know it really was a whole other level of manipulation,” she told “20/20.”
Mahon said in court that Nassar “not only tricked me, but tricked my mom,” who was present for all of her appointments, which created another level of manipulation and grief. She told “20/20” Nassar is a “master manipulator.”
Mahon added that she thought she would feel sympathy at some point during the trial, but “what he said in his letter just really assured me that he’s a monster.”
Boyce, who filed a lawsuit against Nassar, MSU and others, told “20/20” that sitting among this group of accusers after feeling alone for so long felt “overwhelming.”
“It didn’t have to be this way. Especially because I told Kathie Klages [former MSU head gymnastics coach] back in 1997, so probably most of these people sitting next to me would not be here,” Boyce explained. “I didn’t speak of it after that moment and when I was silenced I didn’t speak of it until the reports came out in 2016. And I defended him at first … That’s how brainwashed I was.”
Thrush, a former Twistars gymnast in Michigan where Nassar allegedly assaulted girls in a back room at the gym, reiterated the same notion as many of Nassar’s accusers, testifying in court at his sentencing that, “nobody should ever have to question their doctor, especially one who was the doctor for the US Olympic team.”
“I think it’s both incredibly comforting but also incredibly horrifying as to how many of us there are,” Siebert, a former gymnast, told “20/20”. “I also think it’s a testimony that everybody can see is how much it took to take down this guy.”
The retired gymnast claims she was abused by Nassar at Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas, a national training site for U.S. Olympic gymnasts.
“I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, he was the only adult in my life that was nice to me at that time and for the six — about six years I was on the national team, those were the years that Larry worked on me. I was a shell of a child,” Larson told “20/20.”
Larson went as far as to say she can no longer watch the sport and that even if she has children she may not let them get involved.
“Hopefully by that time elite gymnastics will be different and they’ll be someone amazing in charge,” she said. “That would be really the only way I would be okay with it you know.”
Halicek, who claimed she was abused by Nassar when she was 15 years old, told “20/20” she wants more women to come forward and know they have support.
“Speaking to girls, ones that haven’t come forward yet and either have been abused by Nassar or someone else, we’re here for you,” she said. “Join us. Don’t be afraid, like we’re a force and we’re here for you. And change is happening.”
Former figure skater Nicole Soos, who said she was abused in 2001 by Nassar, agreed with Bedford that the former Olympic doctor had a reputation for inappropriate treatment among the young female athletes.
“The girls at the ice rink would say, he touches you funny down there,” Soos said.
Denhollander was the first woman to file a criminal complaint with police against Nassar. She has filed a lawsuit against Nassar, USA Gynmastics (USAG) and others. Her story was first reported by The Indianapolis Star, which had already published an in-depth investigation into the culture at USAG.
“The problem here isn’t Larry,” she told “20/20.” “Larry is a symptom of the problem. The culture at USAG was not only abusive … it was also a policy of not reporting sexual abuse. They literally put the reports in a file cabinet.”
“My presumption as a 15-year-old was first that surely others had spoken up and if they had spoken up those reports would have been taken seriously,” she added. “And I was wrong.”
In a statement posted on its website on Jan. 25, 2018, USA Gymnastics said it “completely embraces the requirements outlined in the Jan. 25, 2017 letter from the United States Olympic Committee and appreciates the opportunity to work with the USOC to accomplish change for the betterment of our organization, our athletes and our clubs. We understand that the requirements imposed by the letter will help us enhance our ability to build a culture of empowerment throughout the organization, with an increased focus on athlete safety and well-being. Our commitment is uncompromising, and we hope everything we do makes this very clear.”
The former Central Michigan University gymnast met with Nassar during her senior year and claimed in court that the abuse began at her second appointment with the then-doctor in 2011.
“I’m not pretending it didn’t happen anymore. I’m just moving past it,” she said in court.
Robinson told “20/20” that despite being afraid to come forward, “finding my voice like was the best thing.”
The 17-year-old former gymnast said she wants to help others speak out against abuse.
“I want … other people to know that when you speak out they’ll be surrounded by people who love and support you and you can walk in the truth instead of trying to feel like you have to hide,” she said.
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