Nassar Sentenced to 175 Years in Ingham County

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Over the last week I watched somewhere around forty hours of victim impact statements at Larry Nassar’s Ingham County sentencing.

FORTY. HOURS.

During this time, 158 women spoke out or had their statements read for them by parents, by victim advocates, or by the Attorney General’s office, accounting for about 80% of those who have come forward about their abuse so far.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina made it quite clear early on that she would honor the plea agreement, so when she went with the maximum allowed by the plea — up to 175 years — it wasn’t a surprise, but it did offer a sense of relief to the survivors who were there to finally get justice after years or even decades had passed since they were abused.

Thanks to our excellent news curator Jessica Price, we have a recap of so much that happened over the past few days both in the courtroom and in response to the victim impact statements and to the sentencing.

But I also wanted to address this personally because after watching every single second of the live stream, hearing every single survivor tell a story that was so similar to the rest but with its own individualized heartbreak — a father going to his grave believing Nassar was innocent, not knowing his own daughter was abused; a coach who sent hundreds of kids to Nassar, his mentor at the time, and now feels unfathomable guilt in knowing that he contributed to his pool of victims; and countless young women who feel unworthy, anxious, depressed, and suicidal because they trusted someone who took advantage of their vulnerability — I can’t just passively share the outcome.

Women between the ages of 15 and 40 shared some of the most personal details of their lives in a courtroom full of reporters, legal teams, the best judge ever, fellow survivors and their support systems, and the “defendant,” Nassar, who had the audacity to write a single-spaced six page letter after sitting through two days of testimony because listening to these statements was “too difficult” for him mentally, as if being abused by a trusted, beloved doctor and spending the next years or decades of your life living in fear, afraid to be touched, and wishing you were dead because of what he did is a piece of cake.

Judge Aquilina laughed off the letter when she read excerpts aloud on day three, contributing a much-needed distraction and easing the tension a bit after an emotionally packed start to the sentencing. But she saved the best for last, and by “best,” I mean the most delusional, narcissistic, self-obsessed nonsense where he reminds us that he is actually the victim here, not the hundreds of women and girls he molested.

“What I did was medical, not sexual, but because of the porn [found on his computer], I lost all support. Thus the guilty plea.”

Ah, yes. “The porn.” As in the 37,000 files containing sexual images of children the FBI found on his laptop, which he attempted to destroy by taking it to a computer shop and spending $50 to have erased before tossing his hard drives in the trash.

His letter went on to say that he “was a good doctor” because his “treatments” worked. “Those patients that are now speaking out were the same ones that praised and came back over and over, and referred family and friends.” His letter implied that the only reason victims think they’re victims is because the media told them that they were because the media wanted to demonize him and turn him into a bad guy.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” he mocked, yes, MOCKED, before going on to say, “I was SO manipulated. All I wanted was to minimize stress to everyone [by pleading guilty].”

The gallery literally burst into laughter at that, which was a welcome change from the sobs, because when Nassar got his chance to speak, he spun around in circles to simultaneously address the judge in front of him and his victims behind him, looking about as crazy as someone could possibly look under the circumstances. While doing this, he thanked his victims for their words, pointing at random into the crowd and yelling “YOUR words, and YOUR words, and YOUR words!” like he was Oprah or Lindsay Lohan breaking up her crown at the end of Mean Girls. I honestly in that moment thought he expected applause for being so “brave” all week, but in reality, his victims sobbed during his attempt to address them head-on and the judge told him to knock it off.

“Would you like to withdraw your plea?” she asked once he stopped rotating.

“No, your honor.”

“Because you’re guilty, aren’t you, sir?”

Nassar paused for a moment. “I accept my plea.”

It is absurd. I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t hear him say it, and if I didn’t hear Judge Aquilina read the words in his letter, but this is a man who molested hundreds (if not thousands) of women and girls who thought he was healing them, who took advantage of coaches and parents who trusted him with their children, and who used international competitions to groom athletes from other countries when he wasn’t satisfied with destroying the sport in the United States, and he thinks he is the victim.

Nassar is such a master manipulator that not only did he get every single man, woman, and child he ever came into contact with to believe that he’s this amazing guy, he also manipulated himself into thinking everything he did was legitimate and medically necessary. After listening to 158 women talk about their pain and trauma, emotional tolls that have taken some of them thirty years to process and come to terms with, he actually believes he’s innocent.

Many of the Nassar survivors wanted answers and apologies to help with the healing process, but they’re unlikely to get anything back from him if he can’t admit to himself or others that what he did was wrong.

But even without Nassar admitting to and understanding exactly how he ruined hundreds of lives, you could feel the healing beginning to happen, or continuing to happen, as each woman read her words out loud. The sentencing was about Nassar, but the process was all about the 158 women becoming inspired and empowered through their own words and through the words of their “sister survivors,” to borrow Judge Aquilina’s name for the army of survivors who blazed a trail for change in the culture of gymnastics.

That change has been a long time coming. At the institutional level, shutting down the ranch and wiping the board clean is fine and good, but what we need in this sport is coaches who will take girls at four or five years old and let them know they have autonomy, and that while the coaches will do their best to help them reach their goals, they have the right to step up and say “I am not comfortable with this.”

By telling children “your coaches know what’s best and you’d better listen if you want to get to the Olympics someday,” children are internalizing at an early age that their feelings, opinions, and choices not only don’t matter, but are wrong. In no world should a child be crying on an exam table while a doctor violates her in front of her parents and think that this is how things are supposed to be. In no world should a child purposely bash her head into her bathtub to get out of going to the national team camps. In no world should a child be made to feel invisible because the end results matter more than she does.

Gymnastics is inherently not going to be easy for anyone, no matter how determined or talented, and children will have to make many sacrifices if they want to succeed at the highest levels, but aside from the occasional broken bone or torn ACL, these sacrifices shouldn’t have to include their own physical and mental health.

As Mattie Larson said in her brave and horrifying statement on Tuesday, “There is another way. A healthy and supportive way to make champions.” Change won’t happen overnight, but thanks to the 158 women who spoke this week—and in support of the other 50 or so who came forward but chose not to attend the sentencing and the remaining hundreds who haven’t yet felt comfortable about speaking out and may never will—it’s coming. While Larry Nassar rots in prison and never walks free again in this lifetime, the army of survivors he left in his wake will rise up and make the sport better and safer for future generations.

Thank you to each and every survivor who spoke up over the past seven days of this sentencing. Know you were heard and that your words created lasting change while forever shining a light not only on abuse, but on how easily victims can be silenced.

We hear you.

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Article by Lauren Hopkins

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28 thoughts on “Nassar Sentenced to 175 Years in Ingham County

  1. “Over the last week I watched somewhere around forty hours of victim impact statements at Larry Nassar’s Ingham County sentencing.”

    I don’t know how you managed. I could only take a few clips.

    I feel like Jonathan Chait, Matt Yglesias and other male journalists who concern trolled on Twitter about Judge Aquilina’s words to Nassar being too harsh should be tied to a chair with Clockwork Orange clamps on their eyes and forced to watch all forty hours so that they finally get it.

    Maybe it’s slightly off topic, but I think it’s not. That so many men are more outraged by a woman in authority giving a verbal smackdown to a man, even one that’s about the worst specimen of humanity than they are over hundreds of girls being sexually abused is part of the problem. It’s part of why sexual predators fly under the radar for so long, often forever and why a sexual predator is allowed to be sitting in the White House right now. Because male privilege and fragile masculinity is always more sacred than the lives and well being of women and girls. Every time.

    Anyway, hugs, support and thanks to all the amazing women who dragged this cockroach into the light of day and rid society of his pestilence.

    Apologies to roaches for the comparison as they are part of the ecosystem and therefore serve more purpose to the world than Nassar, his enablers and anyone who engaged in any kind of apologia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • YUP. How tough are male judges generally?? I’ve heard MUCH WORSE. All the men are just boo hoo bummed because a woman DARED to speak to a man the way Aquilina spoke to Nassar. A man saying those same words wouldn’t even be questioned, and you’re absolutely right that this fragile male response to Judge Aquilina is part of the problem. But as the AG’s office said, women led the investigation, women led the prosecution, women spoke up, and three woman judges will sentence Nassar. “It’s poetic justice.”

      Liked by 3 people

    • 1. Death penalty cases are exponentially more expensive to taxpayers, on a per capita basis, than life imprisonment.

      2. My own feelings about the death penalty aside, only certain types of murder are capital crimes in this country. Sexual crimes, no matter how vile, are not. And the only way the rule of law means anything in this country is if we don’t chuck those laws out the window every time we don’t agree with what they say.

      Besides, I’d rather see him have to live rotting in jail for the rest of his life than put him out of his misery by executing him.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, anti-rape advocacy groups oppose making sex crimes a capital offense. It actually incentivizes sexual predators to kill their victims because if they’re caught, they’ll be executed anyway. It doesn’t deter the sex crimes though.

      The reason is down to spending too much money on incarceration is down to the prison industrial complex surrounding the war on drugs, not because sex abusers occasionally get long sentences.

      I know I’m drifting way off topic for this blog and I do apologize for that, but seriously, some states have contracts with private prison companies guaranteeing them a certain amount of prisoners. If not enough people are imprisoned, the state pays a fine. The “paper’s please” anti-immigrant law in Arizona was actually written in part by private prison industry lobbyists. It’s shocking.

      Anyways, back on topic. I think this is a fate worse than death for someone as narcissistic and entitled as Nassar, so even if I was for the death penalty, I’d personally prefer life imprisonment for him.

      Liked by 1 person

    • A lot of these perps end up taking their own life anyway. Or they get killed and raped by fellow prisoners… Not saying I am supporting either things happening. But I won’t be surprised that’s what will happen…

      Like

  2. I just wish someone would press charges against the Karolyis. They’ve been belittling these girls for decades, with psychological and in some cases (Moceanu, Eberle) physical abuse as well. If it wasn’t for them, the girls wouldn’t have had to feel like they had no choice but to trust Nassar. In Nassar they saw the only person who actually cared about them, because they all knew Marta didn’t give a shit about them, only their medals. And for that, honestly, if Nassar is a monster, the Karolyis are demons.

    Like

    • Many people have included the Karolyis in civil suits. There’s nothing they can really be charged with criminally at this point despite their past abusive behavior. The cops in Michigan are even refusing to investigate John Geddert because no one has any concrete evidence against him despite his recent history of physical and emotional abuse.

      Like

  3. I’m short on time as I have class in a few minutes, but I wanted to say to Lauren: Thank you for your honest thoughts here, and for the amazing guest article on HuffPost. Top notch work. For survivors of any sexual violence, it’s important that voices are raised. Your contributions are healing for all of us.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much! I was originally going to approach everything from a newsy standpoint but I figure that’s what the news is for and I’m too full of rage and emotions to be newsy so I’m glad what I AM putting out there is helping people get through this stupid crappy time in the sport.

      Like

  4. Thanks for the article and covering the sentencing! I watched a few clips the first before bed, had a horrible nightmare, and decided it was going to be no more for me.

    I think Judge Aquilina was fantastic, no question there. BUT the only thing that kind of took me aback was when she said: “Our Constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment. If it did I would allow some or many people to do to him what he did to others.” I can see how she definitely got to that point after hearing all the girls’ statements but wishing rape on someone is a bit much, especially considering there may be survivors who don’t wish that upon him. Maybe it’s also personal for me, because when someone said the same thing about my rapist, I actually felt sick that people could even consider rape potentially justifiable, even as a punishment. I think that’s what some (not all, obv) of the comments on Twitter were about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, all of the people saying “I hope he gets what he did to everyone” kind of bugs me a lot. I did see a great comment on one of our news blogs here where someone said “I hope he has to sleep on a cot made of legos” and THAT’S something I can get on board with.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nassar is just vile trash.
    The most shocking thing about this case for me (apart from him being a serial child molestor) is the number of times he could have been stopped, and wasn’t. He should have been put on trial in the 90s when the first allegations came to light.
    Almost 30 years later to finally stop him? Unacceptable.

    Like

  6. Just curious… do you think situations like this have happened in other countries? Any whispers/rumours? I know the incidents would’ve DEFINITELY been hushed up

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  7. It is horrifying that this kind of sexual abuse went on for so long. I wonder what other awful things happen in USAG that are covered up. Power was too consolidated and that bred contempt for anyone who spoke against the system. I’m glad that the USAG is cleaning house, if not burning down the house. That arrogant, lucrative and self-protecting house deserved to be burned down.

    But what will come next? The USAG has no sponsors left, and I suspect the development pipeline will dry up because girls won’t want to get into gymnastics anymore. Will many U.S. private gyms shut down? Will we see an exodus of coaching talent from the US? US gymnastics will see some lean years ahead.

    Like

    • While I am all for change also, I just hope that somehow good things can come soon without dashing any of the current gen elites dreams and hopes. USAG needs to clean house ASAP so that they can get on with the business… Worlds is only 9-10 months away. There is no reason why even the current crops of promising elites have to also suffer from this fallout.

      I doubt that there will be an exodus of coaching talents from US. And I think that they would still be the top dog. But the longer this lingers, the worse things will be for the current gen….

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    • Elite is not the only competition for gymnastics in the USA though, you are forgetting NCAA. So nope there would be no closure of gyms, no shortage of girls wanting to do gymnastics. USA would still be competitive, they just need to clean up all those involved in Nassar. I just find it funny that some people make it seem like it is the end of USA gymnastics because of Nassar. Is this coming from fans of other countries who wants their teams to at least be number 1 instead of USA hmmm.

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  8. We can not let this monster or Bela & Marta destroy our sport. The USA has so many awesome grassroot and competitive programs with loving quality coaches like my self who work tirelessly every day and have for 30 years to give as many kids as possible the ultimate experience of mastering a gymnastics skill and the PURE JOY that experience brings.
    We can not lose that!
    I’ve been around the sport a long time and have seen the damage done to many gymnast under the oppression of the Karolyi’s each quad-from Diane Durham…Kristie Phillips…& Erica Stokes to Dominique Moceanu…Vanessa Atler & Mattie Larson…they have crushed dreams and destroyed lives.
    But we now have many elite coaches that can produce top level athletes without the verbal, emotional and sometimes physical abuse perpetrated by the Karolyi era.
    These coaches must now take the lead and bring us out of this shadow now cast upon our sport.
    They must arise and return the sport to whom is truly belongs…the gymnasts!

    Like

  9. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: My monster is gone. | The Gymternet

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