Culture

Gymnast Mattie Larson Purposely Injured Herself To Avoid Larry Nassar’s Sexual Abuse

Ex-Team USA doctor Larry Nassar has been sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing at least 150 female athletes, but the saga is far from over. The morning-after reaction included Aly Raisman saying that she hopes Nassar suffers, and on GMA, 2010 floor exercise U.S. champion Mattie Larson told George Stephanopolous that she felt justice had been served. She also gave a harrowing account of how she purposely injured herself to avoid Nassar.

Larson described how she once splashed water on the bathroom floor at her parents’ house and deliberately slammed her head. By attempting to give herself a concussion, she managed to avoid attending a training camp for U.S. Olympic gymnasts, where Nassar sexually abused women and girls under the guise of “treatments.” This is a horrifying account:

“I was crying, panicking, didn’t want to go. I was taking a bath. It wasn’t even a hard decision in my mind. I just turned on survival mode. I banged my head as hard as I could to make sure that I got a bump and to make sure that my parents heard the bang.”

Stephanopolous asked why Larson — who described Nassar’s trail of abuse as “systemic” — didn’t seek help from her parents or other adults, and she responded that it didn’t seem possible. “It wasn’t an option for me, I didn’t know I could, I didn’t have a voice,” she said. “I was a shell of a child, I was empty.” On Tuesday, Larson also appeared in court, where she voiced her fury at the level of trust bestowed upon Nassar by other adults, and she directly faced him while declaring, “I can’t even put into words how much I f*cking hate you.”

Indeed, many have wondered why other adults were rarely present during his “treatments” and how Team USA and Michigan State University (where Nassar maintained a sports practice) failed to protect these female athletes. As a result, Team USA has lost major sponsors, and N.C.A.A. launched an investigation into MSU’s handling of the Nassar case prior to the university president’s resignation over the outcry, given reports that over a dozen university representatives were aware of allegations and did nothing for decades.

On that note, a blistering victim statement from former gymnast Rachael Denhollander — who was the first to go public with her Nassar allegations — is making the rounds. Denhollander described in excruciating detail how Nassar abused her for over a year, and one particularly gut-wrenching section shows how she once believed none of it would have happened if MSU officials knew of the predatory behavior. Her sense of betrayal is palpable when she describes learning that many other gymnasts had already brought complaints:

“I was wrong that surely, if someone had been made aware of what Larry was doing they would report it and ensure it was legitimate before ever allowing him near another child. I did not know when I was 15 that in 1997, three years before I walked into Larry’s exam room that MSU’s head gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages, had waved a report form in front of Larissa Boyce after being told by two separate gymnasts of what Larry was doing and told Larissa there would be consequences for her if she reported.

“I did not know that Tiffany Thomas Lopez had reported the penetration and sexual assault to athletic trainer, Destiny Teachnor-Hauk, and to other athletic trainers and supervisors two years before I walked into Larry’s door.

“I did not know that Christie Achenbach had reported the penetration and sexual assault to her track coach and her athletic trainers and had also been silenced a full year before I walked into Larry’s door. I did not know that Jennifer Bedford had also reported to Destiny Teachnor-Hauk and asked if she could file a report that Larry’s treatment made her feel uncomfortable and that she had also been silenced.

“I believed the adults at MSU surrounding Larry would do the right thing if they were aware of what Larry was doing, and I was terribly wrong.”

Denhollander is one of many who are now alleging that MSU and USA Gymnastics actively engaged in a coverup of reports, which allowed Nassar’s behavior to flourish. To that effect, Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney has filed a lawsuit against Team USA while accusing them of a coverup, and MSU is also on the defense, denying a coverup on the university’s behalf. Denhollander was devastated after learning of prior reports that went unheeded, and she, along with countless others, is demanding answers.

(Via ABC News, New York Post & CNN)

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