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In sex abuse case, judge closes courtroom for three alleged victims

A courtroom
Bill Ledbetter
Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Judge Julie Reincke is closing the courtroom to all but one print reporter during the alleged victims' testimony

“We don’t tell parents about this, because they wouldn’t understand.” That’s what one young woman says Larry Nassar told her when she was a 15-year-old gymnast at Twistars Gymnastics Club in Dimondale, Michigan.

The woman, who’s going by “Victim C” in court documents, tells police Nassar was referring to a procedure he used while treating her in a back room at Twistars: he would “typically insert two or three fingers” into her vagina, according to a police affidavit, and sometimes “his fingers would get close to my cervix.”

Nassar, who was a doctor for the USA women’s gymnastics team and a respected professor at Michigan State University, is now facing criminal charges in four separate cases across the state. On Friday, two young women and one teenage girl will testify against him in Eaton County. All three claim Nassar used his fingers to penetrate them vaginally during treatment, without gloves and without their consent.

The judge is closing the courtroom during their testimony per the prosecution’s request, citing “the psychological condition of these witnesses, the nature of the offenses charged against the defendant, [and the] desire of the witnesses to have the examination closed to the public.”

Since two women came forward in the fall of 2016, Michigan State University police say at least 80 women and girls have made “reports with similar details of how they were assaulted” by Nassar.

And all but one of the alleged victims involved in Nassar’s criminal cases wish to remain anonymous. In Eaton County, they’re referred to as a Victims A, B, and C.

Victim A also testified in a separate court case against Nassar in Mason. She’s 16 years old, and first started seeing Nassar for treatment at Twistars when she was about 9 or 10. She told the court in Mason that Nassar also digitally penetrated her when she went to his clinic with a heel injury.

“Before I knew it, his fingers were in my vagina,” Victim A testified. "At first I was just confused…. It hurt a lot, because I was so young. I just remember lots of pain. I thought what he was doing was right, he's a doctor," she says.

"He was quite sweaty and very into it, I guess you would say?" she told the court. "There'd be time where he'd be like, 'Just tell me if it hurts at all,' but I was so young I didn't want to say anything." The penetration lasted between 30 to 40 minutes, she says. "He just slapped on a bunch of hand sanitizer, he was done. I was really just embarrassed."

Victim B is 21 years old, and tells police she was assaulted by Nassar more times than she could count. She started seeing Nassar for treatment at age 10 or 11, and claims he began digitally penetrating her at age 15.

Nassar has maintained his innocence throughout these cases, and his attorneys argue he only used medically legitimate procedures. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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