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There are few ways to adequately summarize the first victim impact statement at Larry Nassar‘s sentencing hearing on Tuesday. The best approach is to let that person speak for herself.
“Little girls don’t stay little forever,” Kyle Stephens said in Ingham County court. “They return as strong women to destroy your world.”
Nassar, a former doctor with the USA gymnastics team, has admitted to abusing women and girls, and he pleaded guilty in November to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. That doesn’t compare, however, to the sheer number of allegations against him. 88 people are expected to testify against him. Stephens went first, and it was intense.
WATCH HER FULL TESTIMONY HERE:
She said Nassar and his wife were family friends. He took advantage of that proximity to abuse her starting when she was six, she said. The abuse continued for six more years: He exposed himself to her, masturbated in front of her while playing hide-and-go-seek, rubbed his penis on her feet, and penetrated her vagina with his fingers.
“All of which took place with my parents, my siblings, his wife, and his children in the same house,” she said. Stephens stepped forward after learning about molestation in the Catholic Church, and a friend’s experience with sexual abuse. She was 12 when she told her parents about Nassar rubbing his penis on her feet, but her parents didn’t believe her. In fact, it created a rift between them.
“To my father, someone who makes such heinous, false accusations is the worst type of person,” Stephens said. “His belief that I lied seeped in to the foundation of our relationship. Every time we got into a fight, he would tell me I need to apologize to Larry.”
Stephens had to spent years in close proximity with the Nassar family, and Nassar’s wife even had her babysit. She used the word “brainwash” to describe the experience.
Through the years, her dad continued to demand she apologize to Nassar. Eventually, he realized he made a mistake, but too much damage was done even though father and daughter worked to mend their relationship. Stephens believes that the pain he felt contributed to his suicide in 2016.
“Admittedly, my father was experiencing debilitating health issues,” Stephens said, “but had he not had to bear the shame and self-loathing that stemmed from his defense of Larry Nassar, I believe he would have had a fighting chance for his life.”
She said she suffered from difficulties like anxiety and eating disorders because of Nassar’s abuse. Stephens said other people had trouble understanding such terms.
“For me, it was a girl crying on the floor trying not to rip out too much of her hair,” she said. “For me, it was a girl wanting the pain to stop so badly that she woke up for months to the thought, ‘I want to die.’ For me, it was a girl getting out her gun, and laying it on the bed just to remind herself that she has control over her own life. For me, it was girl who spent so much of her time trying to fix herself that she forgot what she enjoys doing.”
When it came time for her to address Nassar directly, she hedged absolutely no words.
“Little girls don’t stay little forever,” she said. “They return as strong women to destroy your world.”
She spoke in support of the prosecutors’ preferred sentence: 40-to-125 years.
[Screengrab via Law&Crime Network]