BGSU freshman speaks out about Nassar abuse - Toledo News Now, News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

BGSU freshman speaks out about Nassar abuse

(Source: Jeff Hall) (Source: Jeff Hall)
(Source: Jeff Hall) (Source: Jeff Hall)
(Source: Jeff Hall) (Source: Jeff Hall)
BOWLING GREEN, OH (WTOL) -

On Monday, a Michigan judge sentenced serial sexual predator Larry Nassar to 40 to 125 years in prison for three counts of criminal sexual conduct. The 54-year-old is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.

After his final sentence, a local survivor of Nassar's abuse decided to speak out. She's still coming to terms with what happened to her years ago.

Katelynne (Kate) Hall is 18-years-old and a freshman at BGSU studying exercise science.

Her gymnastic pictures show a young gymnast hopeful to make it big, until a doctor took advantage of her.

Kate first started gymnastics when she was just seven years old. She instantly fell in love with the sport. Not to mention was great at it, winning local, regional, state and even national titles until a major setback.

"It all kind of like snowballed,” said Katelynne Hall. “Later on, I won nationals in level nine and unfortunately after that I got my stress fractures."

In 2012 Kate had a bilateral stress fracture in her back. Several recommended her family to take her to see world-renowned Doctor Larry Nassar. She had seen him previously for minor heel and knee injuries too.

"When you’re located here and just up at Lansing is one of the best, most well renown gymnastics doctors there is in the country if not the world, it's kind of a no-brainer to go there,” said Jeff Hall, Kate's dad. “And a lot of coaches and a lot parents had said, 'Hey, take her to Nassar.'"

Kate saw Nassar about twice a month for three-and-a-half years. She was just thirteen when his massages and penetration began. It was explained as treatment to Kate and because he was so well known she never questioned it.

"I mean, you felt uncomfortable,” explained Kate Hall. “You felt dirty, kind of gross afterwards, but you are taught from a young age to trust doctors to never question them. It never really registered through a 13-year-old's mind that this is what was happening."

Her parents were often in the room during her treatments and say looking back that he would position the table and maneuver himself so they couldn’t see anything, but would talk them through the “treatment.”

Jeff said he felt guilty and angry after learning about what happened to his daughter at the hands of a trusted doctor.

"I sent her there intentionally, but with the intent that she was going to get better and heal. Then to find out afterwards that you know, he's a monster, I mean just a literal monster for what he did to so many," Jeff said.

Kate just recently came to the realization of her abuse as of December. She told her parents and just a month later began writing an impact statement to be read in court during Larry Nassar’s trial. She was not emotionally able to share it at the time, but it was read during the trial.


READ HALL'S STATEMENT BELOW STORY


"Having those other girls there supporting and knowing exactly what you went through was amazing,” said Kate Hall. “So, you came to the realization like wow this happened to me, but you also had the support of so many other survivors and parents."

Kate said there aren't enough years in prison for the abuse he caused, but Nassar’s lifelong sentence is the beginning of her healing. She and her family know it will be a long process, but they are committed to speaking out and being advocates for change.

While Kate had to retire as a gymnast herself, she now is a coach working to enrich the lives of young athletes.

"My previous coaches used to say you're not just teaching them gymnastics, you're teaching them life,” explained Kate Hall. “So I get to kind of like repay them and make sure they get a great experience with the sport."

She also has big plans in the sports medicine industry, to shine a light on the positives of the career and not the negative manipulation that’s been shown. She hopes her story along with the hundred other survivor stories change the culture and inspire others.

“I think it’s important to get the word out,” Kate Hall said. “If you are a victim of it, I think it’s great to talk to people. It might be scary, I know it’s hard, it was very hard for me to come out, but talking to people whatever you’re going through not even just this, but talk to people, parents or coaches. Also, those who are told they need to be held accountable, they need to tell someone and help them because it is not an easy thing to do at all.”

Kate is freshman at BGSU and their gymnastics team will have a teal meet on March 17th to support sexual abuse survivors just like Kate and hundreds of others.

Kate's full statement:

I am 18 years old, and I was one of Larry’s sexual abuse victims.  I had been his patient since I was 8 years old, but the abuse “didn’t start” until I was 13 years old.  When I started seeing Larry, I still believed in Santa Claus and monsters.  I no longer believe in Santa Claus, but I do know there are real monsters, and Larry is one of them.

I started college last fall and my parents talked to me about sexual predators and how I always needed to keep my guard up – no drugs or alcohol to cloud my judgment and reflexes.  But who would ever think I needed to be warned, at 13 years old, about becoming a patient of a world renowned gymnastics doctor?  I was in awe of him I couldn’t believe that I was one of his patients.  His office walls were filled with Olympic memorabilia, and he would tell stories.  He would text me and Facebook message me, comment on my photos and videos – I thought he was a friend, someone to trust, someone to look up to.  That broken trust has shattered my world, and I may never be the same again.

Larry sexually abused me for three and a half years.  He explained “almost” everything he was doing in the treatments – pressure points and realignments.   My appointments with him could last up to 2 hours.  At that age, I had no idea that the penetration (without gloves) was not a valid treatment and he never explained that part to me or my parents.  I was too embarrassed to speak to my parents or friends or coaches about what he was doing.  My parents are very protective, and they never left me alone with him.  But, in reflection that almost seemed like part of the game to him – how much could he get away with? 

I have gone through counseling, was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and I am still learning how his abuse has affected me.  I continue to struggle with flashbacks, sleeplessness, trust issues, and difficulties with concentration.  I also continue to take anti-depressants, daily, to help manage these symptoms.   My parents want me to begin counseling again, but I don’t think I’m ready to talk about the abuse yet, maybe never.  How do you even begin that conversation with anyone?  You can’t begin to imagine how hard it was to even tell my parents what had happened, and then watch them cry and struggle with their own guilt.

Through this process, I lost the one thing I truly loved, and excelled at - gymnastics.  Instead of continuing “treatments”, that were never intended to help me heal, I decided to retire from gymnastics.  I could not stand the thought of walking into his office one more time; of having him place his hands on me, and in me, one more time.  So, I walked away.  It was a decision no 16 year should ever have to make.

I have so many questions and “what-ifs”.  What if I had asked to go to another doctor – would I have been able to fulfill my dream of competing as a college gymnast?  What if I had told someone what he was doing – how many other little girls would have been saved from his abuses?  What if someone would have taken the very first allegations seriously – would I have been abused?

Your Honor, I respectfully request that he be given the maximum sentence, so he can never harm another child like me again.  It may take me a lifetime to recover, and I hope that if and when that time comes, he is still behind bars, exactly where he belongs.

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