Sex-abuse victims face gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar at sentencing

A marathon sentencing hearing for gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar got off to a searing start Tuesday when a young woman who was molested by him as a child described how it tore her family apart and helped drive her father to suicide.

Kyle Stephens was the first of nearly 100 girls and women who are expected to give statements against Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics and a physician at Michigan State University.

In recent months, Olympic gold medalists including Simone BilesAly RaismanGabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney have gone public with accusations against Nassar. Most of the women testifying in a Michigan courtroom are not well known, but their stories are horrifyingly familiar.

24 PHOTOS
Larry Nassar, former USA Gymnastics doctor, in court
See Gallery
Larry Nassar, former USA Gymnastics doctor, in court
Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, stands during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, stands with his legal team during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, stands with his legal team during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Prosecutor Angela Povilaitis speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar,a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, listens as Prosecutor Angela Povilaitis speaks at his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 16: Larry Nassar listens to victim impact statements prior to being sentenced after being accused of molesting about 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 16, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Victim and former gymnast Aly Raisman speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, (L) a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, sits in the courtroom during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, arrives in the courtroom during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: Larry Nassar appears in court to listen to victim impact statements during his sentencing hearing after being accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: Larry Nassar listens to victim impact statements during his sentencing hearing after being accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 16: Larry Nassar listens to victim impact statements prior to being sentenced after being accused of molesting about 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 16, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 16: Larry Nassar listens to victim impact statements prior to being sentenced after being accused of molesting about 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 16, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 16: Larry Nassar appears in court to listen to victim impact statements prior to being sentenced after being accused of molesting about 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 16, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 16: Larry Nassar appears in court to listen to victim impact statements prior to being sentenced after being accused of molesting about 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 16, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is seen in the 55th District Court where Judge Donald Allen Jr. bound him over on June 23, 2017 in Mason, Michigan to stand trial on 12 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Asst. Michigan Attorney General Angela M. Povilaitis (L) speaks during the hearing of former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar listen with (2nd R) defense attorneys Shannon Smith (2nd L) and Matt Newberg (R) in 55th District Court where Judge Donald Allen Jr. bound him over on June 23, 2017 in Mason, Michigan to stand trial on 12 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar watches a video his interview with the police in the 55th District Court where Judge Donald Allen Jr. bound him over on June 23, 2017 in Mason, Michigan to stand trial on 12 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar (C) with defense attorneys Shannon Smith (L) and Matt Newberg (R) in the 55th District Court where Judge Donald Allen Jr. bound him over on June 23, 2017 in Mason, Michigan to stand trial on 12 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is seen in the 55th District Court where Judge Donald Allen Jr. bound him over on June 23, 2017 in Mason, Michigan to stand trial on 12 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is seen in the 55th District Court where Judge Donald Allen Jr. bound him over on June 23, 2017 in Mason, Michigan to stand trial on 12 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is seen in the 55th District Court where Judge Donald Allen Jr. bound him over on June 23, 2017 in Mason, Michigan to stand trial on 12 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is seen in the 55th District Court where Judge Donald Allen Jr. bound him over on June 23, 2017 in Mason, Michigan to stand trial on 12 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is seen in the 55th District Court where Judge Donald Allen Jr. bound him over on June 23, 2017 in Mason, Michigan to stand trial on 12 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Standing tall at a podium while Nassar buried his forehead in his hand in the witness box, Stephens described how he repeatedly assaulted her in his basement for years: masturbating with lotion in front of her, rubbing her foot on his genitals and violating her with his fingers.

"Without my knowledge or consent, I had engaged in my first sexual experience when I was in kindergarten," Stephens said.

Nassar was a family friend. Stephens is the only accuser who was not molested as a patient of his sports-medicine practice.

She was 12 years old when she told her parents about the abuse. They confronted him and he denied it.

Stephens' voice cracked as she said: "My parents chose to believe Larry Nassar over me."

Her accusation against Nassar, a family friend, fractured her relationship with her parents. Every time she and her father got into an argument, he would tell her, "You need to apologize to Larry."

When she was about to leave for college, she tried to convince her father once again that she was telling the truth. This time, he believed her — and watching that realization creep over him only deepened her pain.

She and her father tried to patch things up, but he killed himself in 2016. He was coping with serious health problems at the time, but Stephens has no doubt that wasn't the only factor.

"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," Stephen said.

"Larry Nassar wedged himself between myself and my family," she said. "For a long time, I told people I did not have a family.'

But Stephens couldn't get away from Larry Nassar's family. She worried about his daughters and continued to babysit for them, acting as their protector and to pay for counseling.

9 PHOTOS
Gymnasts who have accused Larry Nassar of assault
See Gallery
Gymnasts who have accused Larry Nassar of assault
Rachael Denhollander (C) the first woman to publicly say she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar, the former physician for the U.S. womens gymnastics team is hugged during a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan. Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, accused of molesting dozens of female athletes over several decades, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could face at least 25 years in prison on the charges brought in Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Larissa Boyce, a former gymnast sexually abused by Larry Nassar, the former physician for the U.S. womens gymnastics team attends a hearing of Nassar's trial in Ingham County Circuit Court on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan. Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, accused of molesting dozens of female athletes over several decades, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could face at least 25 years in prison on the charges brought in Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Rachael Denhollander (4th L with white blouse) the first woman to publicly say she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar, the former physician for the U.S. womens gymnastics team attends a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan. Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, accused of molesting dozens of female athletes over several decades, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could face at least 25 years in prison on the charges brought in Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Madeleine Jones, 18 of Farmington Hills, Michigan, who was victimized by former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar attends a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan. Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, accused of molesting dozens of female athletes over several decades, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could face at least 25 years in prison on the charges brought in Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Larissa Boyce (R) gets a hug from Alexis Alvarado, both victims of Larry Nassar, during a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan. Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, accused of molesting dozens of female athletes over several decades, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could face at least 25 years in prison on the charges brought in Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
kalie Lorincz (C) who was victimized by former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar during a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan. Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, accused of molesting dozens of female athletes over several decades, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could face at least 25 years in prison on the charges brought in Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
ANTWERPEN, BELGIUM - OCTOBER 02: McKayla Maroney of USA gets ready to compete in the Womens Vault Qualification on Day Three of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships Belgium 2013 held at the Antwerp Sports Palace on October 2, 2013 in Antwerpen, Belgium. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 16: Aly Raisman of the United States performs during the women's floor exercise final at Rio 2016 on Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Raisin finished second to fellow American Simone Biles. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: Olympic medalist Simone Biles stands on stage during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The situation was so surreal, she sometimes wondered if she had imagined the abuse. So she would replay the encounters over and over again to maintain her grip on reality.

Her life became a cycle of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other compulsive conditions. She lay on the floor for hours, pulling out her hair and would take out her gun to remind herself that she had some control over her life,

Many mornings, she said, she woke to the thought: "I want to die."

Stephens paused and asked if she could address Nassar directly. The defendant, wearing blue jailhouse clothes, did not meet her gaze.

She reminded him that after her parents first confronted him, he sat on their living room couch and spoke to her.

"I listened to you tell me, 'No one should ever do that and if they do, you should tell someone,'" she said.

"Well, Larry, I'm here, not to tell someone — but to tell everyone."

Nassar, 54, will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison. He has already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography, and prosecutors want him to get 40 to 125 years in the two state sexual assault cases.

Stephens said she has to live with the heartache and memories for the rest of her life, too.

"You convinced my parents I was a liar," she told Nassar.

"I still get sick at the smell of that lotion," she continued.

"I still flinch when my feet are near someone's lap."

"You used my body for six years for your own sexual gratification. That is unforgivable," she added.

Stephens asked Ingham County Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina to make sure Nassar is never free to harm again.

"Little girls don't stay little forever," she told Nassar. "They turn into strong women who return to destroy your life."

Read Full Story