Acclaimed gymnasts and other victims of disgraced former US gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar have recounted to a sentencing hearing the sexual abuse and emotional trauma he inflicted on them.
Prosecutors are seeking at least 40 years in prison for Nassar, 54, who has already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.
Olympic gold medallists Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman have said they were among Nassar’s victims.
Ms Maroney said she could face a $125,550 ($US100,000) fine if she speaks in court because of a nondisclosure agreement she signed with USA Gymnastics in 2016 when allegations against Nassar began to emerge.
Ms Maroney received a $1.57 million ($US1.25 million) settlement at the time and is not allowed to speak publicly about the abuse.
Celebrity model Chrissy Teigen has vowed to pay the fine for Ms Maroney if she wants to speak at the hearing.
The entire principle of this should be fought – an NDA to stay quiet about this serial monster with over 140 accusers, but I would be absolutely honored to pay this fine for you, McKayla. pic.twitter.com/lsBEgEqZpD
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) January 16, 2018
“The entire principle of this should be fought,” Teigen wrote on Twitter.
“An NDA to stay quiet about this serial monster with over 140 accusers, but I would be absolutely honored to pay this fine for you, McKayla.”
Nearly 100 victims are expected to address the court during the four-day hearing in a Michigan courtroom.
Victims speak out on abuse
Many cried as they told their stories on the first day of the hearing, with some requesting anonymity.
“I testified to let the world know that you are a repulsive liar and those ‘treatments’ were pathetically veiled sexual abuse,” victim Kyle Stephens said to Nassar.
Ms Stephens was the first victim to speak, detailing how Nassar repeatedly abused her from age six until 12 during family visits to his home in Holt, Michigan.
She said he rubbed his genitals on her and digitally penetrated her, among other abuse.
Ms Stephens said Nassar denied abusing her during family visits to his home, and that her parents initially believed him.
Ms Stephens largely blamed her father’s suicide on the shame he experienced for defending Nassar.
“Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don’t stay little forever,” said Stephens.
“They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”
Nassar, who worked for USA Gymnastics, pleaded guilty to molesting women with his hands at his Michigan State University office, a gymnastics club and his home, often while their parents were in the room.
‘He touched the most innocent places on my body’
Another statement came from Donna Markham, who told how her 23-year-old daughter Chelsey killed herself in 2009, years after Nassar sexually abused her during a medical examination.
“It all started with him,” she said, describing her daughter’s downward spiral into drug abuse.
Victims described experiencing “searing pain” during the assaults and having feelings of shame and embarrassment.
They said it had changed their life trajectories, affecting relationships, causing them to be distrustful and leading to depression, suicidal thoughts, and anger and anxiety about whether they should have spoken up sooner.
“He touched the most innocent places on my body,” said Jessica Thomashaw, 17, recounting how she was sexually assaulted at ages nine and 12.
“I couldn’t be just a normal girl anymore, and I forever lost a big piece of my childhood due to his abuse.”
Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who is expected to order a sentence on Friday, said the system had failed them.
“You shouldn’t be angry with yourself,” she told a 31-year-old victim, who said she was assaulted almost 20 years ago.
“You went to him for pain and healing, and you didn’t know. No one faults you or any other victim for that. You were a child.”