Abuse victims confront convicted ex-USA Gymnastics doctor

Abuse victims confront convicted ex-USA Gymnastics doctor

Abuse victims confront convicted ex-USA Gymnastics doctor

Victims of disgraced former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar confronted him at a sentencing hearing on Tuesday with gut-wrenching emotional accounts of the trauma and scars stemming from his sexual abuse.

Nassar, 54, has pleaded guilty to a total of 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct in two counties in Michigan, and could face life in prison.

His best-known victims of sexual abuse under the guise of medical treatment were members of the Olympic gold-medal winning gymnastics team including stars such as Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas.

But Tuesday's hearing revealed the extent of his crimes: more than 100 victims have come forward, including his one-time family babysitter and athletes in several women's sports programmes at Michigan State University, where he worked.

"You used my body for six years for your own sexual gratification," Kyle Stephens, Nassar's former babysitter, told a hushed Lansing, Michigan, courtroom. "That is unforgivable."

Addressing the slight, bespectacled Nassar directly, Stephens said: "Little girls don't stay little forever.

"They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world."

Former gymnast Alexis Moore said: "He betrayed my trust, took advantage of my youth and sexually abused me hundreds of times."

"Are you remorseful for your actions and all the lives you have changed forever?" Moore asked the former doctor in court.

Dressed in blue prison garb, Nassar spent most of the time looking down as the women and girls spoke, occasionally holding his head in his handcuffed hands or wiping away tears.

Some victims chose to be identified and testify publicly while others spoke anonymously.

Another former gymnast, Jade Capua, said the abuse by Nassar was a "life-changing experience that stole my innocence far too young."

"I'm really proud of you," Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told Capua after her remarks.  "Your scar turned into a powerful voice," Aquilina said. "Thank you for your bravery."

Olivia Cowan, who now has two daughters of her own, said she suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and is afraid to send her children to birthday parties or sleepovers.

"If you can't trust a world-renowned doctor, who in this world can you trust?" Cowan said through tears.

Stephens said she believed her father's 2016 suicide was brought about in part by his one-time defence of Nassar, who had been a family friend.

"You convinced my parents that I was a liar," she said.

"Admittedly my father was experiencing debilitating health issues but had he not had to bear the shame and self-loathing that stemmed from his defence of Larry Nassar, I believe he would have had a fighting chance for his life," Stephens said.

Among those who testified was Donna Markham, the mother of former gymnast Chelsea Markham, who was abused by Nassar from the age of 10.

A tearful Markham said her daughter quit gymnastics when she was 13, suffered from depression and took her own life in 2009.

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