Abuse survivor confronts gymnastics doctor: ‘I have been coming for you for a long time’
By Kyle Swenson, January 17, 2017, Washington Post
Two school pictures floated side-by-side on a projection screen in the Michigan courtroom. Both images caught the same small girl — in one, all gawky smile and bangs; the next, braces and long hair — a few years apart. Until this week, the child in the snapshots had been officially identified only as “Victim Z.A.” or “a family friend.”
But on Tuesday, Kyle Stephens, now a young woman, stepped out from the curtain of anonymity to directly address disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar before a judge in Lansing.
“I was the first to testify in this case, and worried of the attention that could come of that, I asked for complete anonymity,” Stephens explained, the pictures of her projected over her shoulder stemming from the time of her abuse. “I’m addressing you publicly today as a final step and statement to myself that I have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Stephens was the first of the nearly 100 survivors expected to testify at a four-day sentencing hearing for Nassar this week in state court. In November, the 54-year-old pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree sexual conduct with minors. Nearly 140 other survivors have accused the former Michigan State University faculty member of assault, including Olympic superstars Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas.
In a separate federal case in December, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography charges.
“Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don’t stay little forever,” Stephens told Nassar, according to news video. “They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”
But unlike other identified victims, Stephens’s abuse did not involve elite athletics. A close friend of her family, Nassar began assaulting Stephens when she was in kindergarten. When she told her parents about the abuse, they believed Nassar.
In a case dominated by celebrity victims and open questions about USA Gymnastics’s response to the scandal, Stephens’s powerful leadoff testimony this week underscored the human toll of Nassar’s runaway abuse — which, for Stephens, included broken family ties and possibly her father’s suicide.
“I have been coming for you for a long time,” she told Nassar, who hid his eyes beneath his hand through the testimony. “I’ve told counselors your name in hopes they would report you. I’ve told your name to Child Protective Services twice. I gave a testament to get your medical license revoked. You were first arrested on my charges. And now as the only nonmedical victim to come forward, I testify to let the world know you are a repulsive liar.”
Stephens told the court her mother and father became close to Nassar and his wife, Stephanie, when Stephens was 5. “They were all medical professionals and shared a passion for the subject,” she said. “Most Sundays, Stephanie and my mother would cook dinner for both families. We shared sporting events, holidays, and many weekends in between.”
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