Denied an opportunity to deliver her victim impact statement in the trial of US Olympic doctor Larry Nassar, gold medal gymnast and Needham native Aly Raisman shared her statement on Thursday, just as Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges.
Raisman and other victims had submitted letters to the court. One week before Nassar’s sentencing, Raisman writes on The Players’ Tribune, they were informed that the judge had denied their opportunity to speak.
“Realizing that you are a victim of sexual abuse is a horrible feeling,’’ Raisman’s letter begins. “Words cannot adequately capture the level of disgust I feel when I think about how this happened. Larry abused his power and the trust I and so many others placed in him, and I am not sure I will ever come to terms with how horribly he manipulated and violated me.’’
Raisman first went public with her allegations in her book, “Fierce,’’ released last month. She wrote on The Players Tribune about why some victims are reluctant to speak up and wait before doing so:
“Abusers are often master manipulators and make their survivors feel confused and guilty for thinking badly of their abusers. And the abusers also often make everyone around them stand up for them, leaving the survivor afraid that no one will believe them. That needs to stop. Those who look the other way must stop and help protect those being hurt. Abusers must never be protected.’’
Raisman writes that when she thought of Nassar, she was overcome with anxiety and had trouble breathing. She also suffered from exhaustion due to nightmares from her experience. She was given medication for anxiety, as well as another prescription to help her sleep, but after an incident when the doses were adjusted resulted in a bad reaction and caused her to lose consciousness, she woke up to her mother calling 911.
“I was loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital, where the doctors realized the issue was a side effect from one of the medications,’’ writes Raisman. “My doctor has recommended that I try other medications to help me cope, but the trauma of what happened with those medications put me over the edge. It just added to the list of things I was anxious and stressed about.’’
To this day, Raisman says, she has issues of trust. When she travels for work, she is paranoid and afraid to be alone. The abuse has affected her relationship with family and friends.
“Maybe by speaking out, by sharing my story and the way my daily life continues to be impacted by Larry’s depraved actions, I can help other survivors feel less alone, less isolated, and encourage them to speak up and to get help.’’
Raisman closes the letter by asking for the maximum sentence for Nassar.
“Maybe knowing that Larry is being held accountable for his abuse will help me and the other survivors feel less alone, like we’re being heard, and open up pathways for healing.’’