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Gymnasts’ parents say they’ll ‘never get rid of the guilt’

  • FILE- In this Jan. 22, 2018, file photo, Whitney Mergens speaks during the fifth day of victim impact statements against Larry Nassar in Ingham County Circuit Court. Mergens' parents and boyfriend stand at her side. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP, File) MATTHEW DAE SMITH

  • Anya Gillengarten is surrounded by her parents and boyfriend after giving her victim impact statement in Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina's courtroom during the fourth day of a sentencing hearing for former sports doctor Larry Nassar, who pled guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, in Lansing, Mich. (Matthew Dae Smith /Lansing State Journal via AP) Matthew Dae Smith

  • Surrounded by her parents and boyfriend, Anya Gillengarten wipes her face after giving her victim impact statement in Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina's courtroom during the fourth day of a sentencing hearing for former sports doctor Larry Nassar, who pled guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, in Lansing, Mich. (Matthew Dae Smith /Lansing State Journal via AP) Matthew Dae Smith

  • Larry Nassar sits with attorney Matt Newburg during his sentencing hearing Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, in Lansing, Mich. The former sports doctor who admitted molesting some of the nation's top gymnasts for years was sentenced Wednesday to 40 to 175 years in prison as the judge declared: "I just signed your death warrant." The sentence capped a remarkable seven-day hearing in which scores of Nassar's victims were able to confront him face to face in the Michigan courtroom. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) Carlos Osorio

  • Jillian Swineheart's mother, Ann addresses Larry Nassar Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, in Ingham County Circuit Court in Lansing, Mich. Nassar, 54, has admitted sexually assaulting athletes under the guise of medical treatment when he was employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which as the sport's national governing organization trains Olympians. He already has been sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography. Under a plea bargain, he faces a minimum of 25 to 40 years behind bars in the molestation case. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP) MATTHEW DAE SMITH

  • FILE- In this Jan. 22, 2018, file photo, Krista Wakeman, right, comforts her mother after Krista addressed Larry Nassar during the fifth day of victim impact statements against Nassar in Lansing, Mich. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP, File) MATTHEW DAE SMITH

  • FILE- In this Jan. 18, 2018, file photo, dancer Jessica Smith, left, reacts while speaking in Lansing, Mich., during the third day of victim impact statements regarding former sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar. Next to her is her mother Kimberly. (Matthew Dae Smith /Lansing State Journal via AP, File) Matthew Dae Smith

  • FILE- In this Jan. 22, 2018, file photo, Emma Ann Miller, 15, speaks during the fifth day of victim impact statements against Larry Nassar in Lansing, Mich. Next to her is her mother Leslie. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP, File) MATTHEW DAE SMITH

  • Krista Wakeman, right, comforts her mother Monday after Krista addressed Larry Nassar during the fifth day of victim impact statements in Ingham County Circuit Court. ap photo

  • Emma Ann Miller, 15, speaks Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, during the fifth day of victim impact statements against Larry Nassar in Ingham County Circuit Court in Lansing, Mich. Nassar will be sentenced on sexual assault charges this week. Next to her is her mother Leslie. Nassar has admitted molesting athletes during treatment when he was employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. He will be sentenced on sexual assault charges this week. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP) MATTHEW DAE SMITH

  • FILE- In this Jan. 16, 2018, file photo, former family friend to the Nassar family, and babysitter to Nassar's children Kyle Stephens, right, addresses Larry Nassar during the first day of the victim impact statements addressing the former sports medicine doctor in Lansing, Mich. Behind Stephens is her mother, and Asst. Prosecutor Angela Povilaitis, center. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP, File) Matthew Dae Smith



Associated Press
Thursday, January 25, 2018

LANSING, Mich. — Some parents thought they were misinterpreting the doctor’s techniques. Others assumed their children were lying or mistaken.

But as more details emerged, the mothers and fathers had to face an awful truth: A renowned sports doctor had molested their daughters.

These parents, many fighting back tears, confronted Larry Nassar during his long sentencing hearing, lamenting their deep feelings of guilt and wondering how they could have missed the abuse that sometimes happened when they were in the same room.

“I willingly took my most precious gift in this world to you, and you hurt her, physically, mentally and emotionally. And she was only 8,” Anne Swinehart told Nassar. “I will never get rid of the guilt that I have about this experience.”

Many of the young athletes had come to Nassar seeking help with gymnastics injuries. He was sentenced Wednesday to up to 175 years in prison after admitting sexually assaulting patients under the guise of medical treatment while employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body, which also trains Olympians.

He counted on his charm and reputation to deflect any questions. He was so brazen that he sometimes molested patients in front of their parents, shielding the young girls with his body or a sheet.

Parents who voiced concern say Nassar dismissed their questions. The mother of one 12-year-old victim said she questioned Nassar about not wearing gloves and he “answered in a way that made me feel stupid for asking.”

“I told myself, ‘He’s an Olympic doctor, be quiet,’” the woman said. “The guilt that I feel, and that my husband feels, that we could not protect our child, is crippling.”

Some victims said they were so young that they did not understand they had been abused until they were adults, so did not tell anyone.

What’s more, coaches told the parents that Nassar was the best and could help their daughters achieve their dreams.

But even when Nassar’s abuse was reported to coaches and law enforcement authorities, many of them did not believe Nassar had done anything wrong, causing many parents and girls to second-guess themselves.

Some parents did not believe their daughters at first, finding it incomprehensible that the man they trusted could have done anything wrong.