media caption What it was like to testify against Larry Nassar
Former Olympic doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in Michigan for abusingfemale athletes he was supposed to treat.
Here, Rajini Vaidyanathan of Hfrance.fr, who was in court, and Roland Hughes detail the extraordinary testimony given in court by survivors of his abuse.
This article contains graphic details of sexu al abuse
One hundred and fifty-six young women - mothers, sisters, daughters, Olympians.
All say they were mistreated by the same man: the former doctor of gymnastics of the American team Larry Nassar.
For seven days, they took the stand one by one to do what few survivors of sexual violence abuse ever had the chance to do - confront their abuser directly.
Nassar had previously pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault for abusing a young girl under the guise of medical treatment.
The women who filed criminal complaints against Nassar were are voiced at his sentencing hearing in Lansing. But they were followed by nearly 150 others, many of whom chose to do so without the anonymity they were entitled to.
Kyle Stephens was the first to relate her story.
For years she was only known as Victim ZA, but as she stood byVaulting Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, she calmly shared her name.
In doing so, she gave up her anonymity in public just as she was about to testify about the harm done by her attacker.
"I was ready to talk " Kyle said in an interview with Hfrance.fr after his testimony. "I think it was really empowering to go out there and tell my story from start to finish.
For decades Larry Nassar abused young women. It was Kyle's call to the police that ultimately led to his arrest.
Unlike many of the other women who shared their stories in this case, Kyle was not a gymnast. and a patient from Nassar. Her parents were friends with her family.
As she stood in the small courtroom, photos of her as a smiling child were projected onto a screen. Nassar first abused her when she was six, "even though I still had not lost all of my baby teeth ".
image source, Kyle Stephens image caption Images of Kyle Stephens child were projected onto a screen in court
He began by exposing himself. Moreard, he would masturbate in front of her. Then he physically abused her - all while their two families were in the same house.
When 12-year-old Kyle told his parents that Nassar would rub his erect penis over his barefoot, he denied. At the time, her parents didn't believe her and urged her to apologize to him.
"He forced me to grow up really fast," Kyle told the Hfrance.fr after the hearing. "It was such a benign action until you grew up and realized it was a vile thing.
image source, AFP / image caption Kyle Stephens s 'is addressed to Nassar (foreground) in court
Seven minutes into his testimony, delivered alongside his mother, Kyle looked at Judge Rosemarie Aquilina and asked her politely if she could address Nassar directly.
She reminded him how his parents invited him to their house after one he accused her. Sitting in his living room, he had denied that he had mistreated her and said that if she was ever genuinely mistreated she should remember to report it.
"Well Larry, here I am " he told him. she told the court. "Don't tell someone, but say iteveryone.
"You may have figured it out now it's out, but little girls don't stay small forever. They become strong women who come back to destroy your world. "
In his teens, Kyle was asked to babysit Nassar's two daughters. This helped her protect them, she told the court, and saved her enough money to pay for the advice.
After reaching a point where she had started to wonder if the abuse had taken place, she tried again to explain to her parents what had happened.
This time they did. have believed.
Nassar, 54, graduated from the University of Michigan in 1985 and joined the Indianapolis-based U.S. National Gymnastics Team Medical Team a year later.
In 1997, alongside his work with the National Team from gym, he started working as a team doctor at Michigan State University (MSU). He started mistreating Kyle Stephens a year later.
He worked for the US gymnastics team in four Olympic Games, regularly rushing to the aid of gymnasts who might have fallen awkwardly.
image source, IOP / AFP / caption of the image 'image Many of Nassar's victims have cited the time he helped injured gymnast Kerri Strug at the 1996 Olympics, a time that bolstered his reputation as a caring and respected doctor
Carrie Hogan , a former MSU softball player,told the court that it was considered a "privilege " to be treated by Nassar. the treatment could make a difference for college stars on the brink of athletic careers.
"I was very familiar with the signed photographs of Olympic gymnasts he had neat ", she said. "He was the best of the best. " Others have said that he is considered a "god " in the gymnastics world.
In an episode of ' a gymnastics podcast broadcast in December 2013, Nassar explained how important it is to take care of young athletes .
"Not just physically but mentally, you have to protect your athletes " he said. told GymCastic, speaking in an unusually slow manner. "You must let them know that they will be taken care of [for].
He also warned againstthe danger of mental injury to athletes, stating "physical injuries from which they can almost always recover." Mental injuries leave scars that come back and haunt them later. "
Many women who spoke in court said that af After abusing them, they were intimidated by his powerful status.
Report 'offense - if they figured out they had been the subject of a breach - felt almost impossible.
Nassar had a surprisingly similar diagram of the how he mistreated young women, the vast majority of whom were gymnasts.
They often came to him in pain, looking for help.
At their time the most vulnerable he tried to convince them of what he was doing was neither wrong - even talking about everyday life and joking while touching them.
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Projecting a sense of normalcy from her position of authority, Nassar made his victims believe that they were wrong in believingre that this was abuse, and they would be wrong if they complained.
"I remember being given the option to keep my Jennifer Rood Bedford , a volleyball player at MSU between 2000 and 2003.
"He had me lie face down on the medical table. When he started the treatment I remember telling him that his treatment consisted of applying pressure to the areas around the pelvis and that it was normal.
"So when he got down there, I just thought it was normal, that he knows what he's doing and not be a baby.
"I remember laying there and thinking: Are you okay? That doesn't look right '.
Rachael Denhollander , a former gymnast from Michigan, was the first victim to speak out publicly in 2016.
She told Hfrance.fr that Nassar abused heron every visit she made to her clinic over a year after turning 15.
Nassar would put Rachael's mother at the head of the table so she couldn't see what he was doing.
With one hand he performed a sports massage. On the other, covered with a towel, he inserted his fingers into Rachael's vagina or anus During one of their last sessions, he unhooked her bra and stroked her breast. - the one time Rachael said she knew she was definitely assaulted and untreated.
media caption Nassar reacts to the testimony of the 'former gymnast Gwen Anderson
Many women said their trust in parents, partners, doctors, strangers, friends and teachers was destroyed as a result of the actions of Nassar.
"My prfirst reaction was to question myself, to blame myself "said Jennifer Rood Bedford.
" I wanted to believe in the best in people, but no matter how much I rationalized - it is a doctor, he is treating you, he didn't want that to happen - I couldn't shake the voice in my head that something was wrong. "
If you have been affected by abuse, sexual abuse or violence, help and support is available.
If you are in UK you can find links here: Hfrance.fr action line
If you are in the States -Unis, you can contact Rainn, the national sexual abuse hotline, here , or by calling 800.656. HOPE
For Gwen Anderson , a former gymnast who competed for her state of Michigan, the abuse began when she was only 12 years old.
Now, as a teacher for girls of the same age, she says she sees Nassar's actions under an even brighter day.
"I teach 12, 13, 14 year old kids every day," she told the court. "And every day, when i watch them i am faced with the reality of how young and helpless we were when you assaulted us.
"i watch them every day and i think to myself 'i am their safe place. I am their protector. I am their encouragement. I am their motivator.I am their rock '. "
We do not know when and how Nassar's abuses of his patients started, although the first allegations date back to 1994.
In August 2016, the Indianapolis Star posted a storyoire detailing allegations of sexual abuse committed by coaches working for USA Gymnastics He claimed that the sports body did not report the allegations of abuse to the relevant authorities.
The original article we didn 't name Nassar. But after it was posted, Rachael Denhollander realized this was her chance to express herself.
The newspaper published allegations against him of two former named gymnasts, including Rachael, a month later.
"I knew that 's how it should be done " she told Hfrance.fr in court. "When you have a predator surrounded by two very powerful institutions, one anonymous voice will never be enough.
" When you have a manipulative, gregarious, and engaging predator like Larry, you have to be prepared to meet him where he is most comfortableon very public land. And never flinch. "
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Rachael's bravery helped encourage other women to come forward. In the hallways outside the sentencing hearing, countless women cited Rachael's actions as inspiration for their own decision to speak out.
As a result, instead of 90 survivors sharing their stories of abuse for four days - as was planned at the start of the hearing - 156 women and girls ended up doing so for seven days.
The feeling in the courtroom was of collective empowerment and solidarity based on a shared experience of horror.
The Quadruple ChampionRio Olympic Simone Biles issued a statement saying that she too had been abused by Nassar. Then Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber came to court to detail what he had done to them during the London 2012 Games.
Nassar was finally arrested on November 21, 2016.
He was sentenced to 60 years in prison a year later for three counts relating to child sex abuse images on his computer.
It has then pleaded guilty to assaulting women in his home , in a gym club and in his MSU office, a plea that led to 156 pre-sentence testimonies.
"I realize that what I feel is nothing compared to the pain, trauma and emotional turmoil I have devastated " Nassar told survivors at the end of hearings.
"There are no words that can describe the depth and br how sorry I am for what happened.
"I will carry your words with me for the rest of my life.
Au dAt the start of the hearings, Nassar had looked down at his hands, avoiding eye contact with anyone who stepped forward to speak.
His former colleague, gym trainer Tom Brennan, stood alongside Gwen Anderson as she testified. "Look at her, " he yelled at the man he called his former mentor, ordering him to pay attention to the women as they testified.
After that, Nassar appeared to look up and listen to the survivors with greater fre quency.
The question of how much he repented remained unanswered after the hearings ended, However: Judge Aquilina read excerpts from a letter he sent her, saying he was a good doctor and that the media had convinced the young women to believe he had done something wrong.
media caption JudgeAquilina: 'I just signed your death warrant '
Judge Aquilina's role in this case was crucial. Almost all of the testimony began with survivors thanking her for her support and encouragement.
Given that Nassar had admitted his guilt months before, Judge Aquilina had no obligation of impartiality . As she took on the role of therapist, advocate, and friend of the women who stood before her, she condemned her actions.
"The monster that took advantage of you will wither away, much like the scene in 'Wizard of Oz ' where water is poured on the witch and the witch wastes away "she told a woman after her testimony.
She also encouraged a number of abuse survivors not to commit suicide when they said they had considered committing suicide - committing suicide would give victory to Nassar, she said.
"I know you are kinda neDream, pretend you're talking to me and your mom "she told another woman as she prepared to give her testimony.
A writer of detective stories in her spare time, Judge Aquilina's words were a powerful force throughout the hearing. She described the women in as "surviving sisters " and "warriors " who demonstrated "superwoman steel.
"I didn't want a single victim to lose their voice "she told the court, explaining why she was prepared to let the hearing go on for as long as it took to hear everything from the survivors who wanted to speak.
Les survivors, in turn, responded. the other gave up anonymity and realized it was a chance to take charge of her own story.
media caption Tiffany Thomas Lopez: "You created an army when you raped us
Not all women didn't know each other, but many recognized the invisible bond between them and the strength they had gained from others who had spoken in court.
Former MSU softball player, Tiffany Thomas Lopez , told Nassar that she was part of the "army you created when you raped us ", continuing, "Your actions have held me by the throat for years. I am ready to be released from your embrace. "
As the hearings went on beyond the four days initially scheduled, anger gradually set in at the institutions where Nassar worked.
Aly Raisman, a member of the 2012 Olympics gold medalist gymnastics team, called for an independent investigation into how Nassar was allowed to continue abusing girls even after complaints were filed.
She attacked both USA Gymnastics - one she says the organization "is rotting from within " - and the Olympic CommitteeAmerican eu for its lack of support. Three senior USA Gymnastics board members subsequently resigned.
The focus is now on who knew what and when.
image source, Reuters image caption Rachael Denhollander, "the five-star general of the Army of Survivors
The Lansing State Journal reports that seven women or girls have filed complaints against Nassar with trainers , coaches, police officers or university officials between 1997 and 2015.
In 2014, an MSU investigation even cleared Nassar of wrongdoing after a recent graduate took him down. accused of assaulting her. Two years later he was under arrest.
The university set aside $ 10million (£ 7.2million) to reimburse former students for counseling , but is pursued by about 140 women. MSU President Lou Anna Simon has also resigned.
Meanwhile, MSU's Board of Directors has asked the Michigan Attorney General's Office to conduct an external review on how whose allegations he dealt with.
As Nassar begins his prison sentence - carried out byr a team of female investigators, prosecutors and judges - the battle to get answers from the authorities has only just begun. Why didn't they listen to the stories of the survivors earlier?
Rachael Denhollander, now a mother of three and a lawyer, was the last to testify. Judge Aquilina called him a "five-star " general in the Survivor Army ".
For Rachael, the feeling was a justification for his decision to leave. express publicly 16 months ago.
"I 'm so deeply grateful for where we are ", she told Hfrance.fr. "But it ' s relatively heartbreaking for me.
"Knowing that the vast majority of these little girls could have been saved from what they went through is devastating.
If you have been affected in cases of child sexual abuse, sexual abuse or violence, help and support are available.
I If you are in UK you can find links here: Action line Hfrance.fr
If you are in the United States, you can contact Rainn, the lineNational Sexual Abuse Hotline, here , or by calling 800.656.HOPE