Unpacking trauma

Larry Nassar’s first known victim was 8 years old. Now she’s 39 and offering support to his younger victims

Sarah Klein at The 2018 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 18, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Former U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s first known victim has now come forward publicly, revealing that she was molested by the serial abuser more than three decades ago. Sarah Klein, 39, said that she was just 8 years old when she began training in gymnastics and getting treatment from Nassar, who was a family friend. Nassar was one of the most important male figures in her life, she told Huffpost. But he molested her — and hundreds of other young girls — nonetheless.

Klein, a business consultant and lobbyist for protection of women subjected to abuse, had until this past summer been known only in court documents as “Victim 125.” But her sense of responsibility for the disgraced doctor’s other victims, she said, had driven her to make herself available as a support and resource to them. She now regularly texts and communicates with many of Nassar’s younger survivors, and advises mothers struggling to deal with their daughters’ trauma.

“Seeing these beautiful little girls who don’t have that wisdom and strength on their side,” she said, “I felt a sense of duty and responsibility to take their hands like I had taken my own younger self’s hand and say, ‘Come here. I’ve got you. Your life will be OK. You will do great things. I will stand with you.’”

Her own personal trauma, she acknowledged, was compounded by feelings of guilt about not stopping Nassar herself.

“What would’ve happened if I had spoken up when I was 8 years old?” she asked. “These girls wouldn’t have even been in that courtroom.”

Witnessing the impact statements of hundreds of other Nassar victims during his trial, she said, had actually helped her to forgive herself.

“At one point during the sentencing, there was a 14- or 15-year-old woman speaking and we were all like, ‘Wow, she’s so young,’” Klein recalled. “And then I realized I was half her age when Larry started abusing me.”

The scale of the conspiracy to hide Nassar’s crimes, she noted, should not be forced onto the shoulders of his victims. Court filings have indicated that the Olympics Committee knew about Nassar’s abuse since the 1990s, and that U.S.A Gymnastics worked with Nassar to cover up the allegations against him. Former MSU president Lou Anna Simon and William Strampel, Nassar’s former boss as MSU, have also been charged with covering up for the disgraced doctor.

Strampel also stands accused of sexually assaulting medical students and even storing footage of Nassar molesting a patient on his work computer. Despite these realities, MSU’s interim president John Engler had continued to bash Nassar’s victims as money-grabbers and attention-seekers who enjoyed “the spotlight” that came with his trial. Engler resigned this week amid the backlash.

“Larry traumatized us and harmed us, but Michigan State and USAG’s actions this past year ― that’s a second level of abuse,” said Klein.

Read the full story at HuffPost.

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