musings, narcissists, poor judgment

Duty to report…

So… I’m reading yet another book about Larry Nassar’s crimes… And in the book, which I think might be the best of the four I’ve read so far, the authors write about Kyle Stephens, who was victimized by Larry Nassar since she was a very small child. Unlike most of the other women who testified against Nassar, Kyle Stephens wasn’t a gymnast or another athlete. Her parents were friends and neighbors of the Nassars– Larry and his wife, Stefanie. They were close enough that they’d get together on weekends and grill out in their neighborhood in East Lansing, Michigan. Every Sunday, from the late 1990s, Stephens, her brother, and her parents would hang out at Larry Nassar’s house. The kids would watch Disney movies while the parents made dinner from recipes that came out of Bon Appétit.

At just six years of age, Kyle Stephens became one of Larry Nassar’s victims. It started with them playing hide and seek. Larry would expose himself to the girl while she hid. Then he’d masturbate in front of her. One day, he said “If you ever want to see it or touch it, let me know.” Kyle Stephens was barely kindergarten age at the time.

Kyle says that if they weren’t playing hide and seek, they’d be sitting on the couch. Larry would sit next to her and put a blanket over them. Then, he would proceed to violate her by massaging her feet and rubbing his penis against them. Worse, he would do to Kyle what he’d done to countless athletes, putting his fingers inside of her. This treatment went on for six years. Kyle was too young and innocent to know that what Larry was doing was wrong, and she said nothing.

One day, when Kyle was about twelve, she finally decided to tell her parents. She was in her bed when her mother came in to say goodnight, and she told her that when Larry massaged her feet, he used his penis. Naturally, Kyle’s mother was absolutely shocked and horrified. She asked her daughter to come down to the kitchen, where they discussed her revelations with Kyle’s father, who didn’t believe her. Then, instead of reporting Larry to the police, Kyle’s parents took her to a child psychologist, who also didn’t believe her. In 2010, the psychologist retired and now claims he had a stroke and doesn’t remember his sessions with Kyle. The psychologist would have had a legal duty to report Larry Nassar to the authorities, but he never did so. Like the others, he thought Kyle was making things up.

To make matters even worse, Kyle’s parents later sat her down with Larry Nassar, who unbelievably said, “No one should ever do that, and if they do, you should tell somebody.” So not only did Kyle’s parents not believe their daughter, they also forced her to take advice about avoiding sexual molestation from her abuser!

Kyle’s father was furious with his daughter and demanded that she apologize to Larry for defaming him. For years, Kyle’s dad stewed about this alleged dishonesty on his daughter’s part. Their relationship deteriorated because Kyle’s parents believed her abuser over their own daughter. Kyle’s parents called her a liar and continued to provide comfort to the enemy, Larry Nassar.

Kyle Stephens makes a statement.

I was impressed by Kyle Stephens’ story, but I was especially amazed by her statement in court. She is a tremendously strong woman. Sadly, her father wasn’t as strong, and he committed suicide in 2009 when he finally realized that his daughter had been telling the truth. Kyle’s dad was not around to see Larry Nassar go down in flames back in 2018.

I think of all of the stories I’ve read so far, Kyle Stephens’ has been the most profound. I relate to what she says because I can imagine my father reacting in much the same way if I had ever come to him with similar accusations. I never told my parents about what our neighbor did when I was growing up. It was mainly because, much like Kyle, I didn’t realize what he was doing was abusive. By the time I did know what he’d done was abuse, I was an adult living in my parents’ home, and there was definitely enough tension. I also didn’t think it would matter… they would only be upset by the news.

But I now see how keeping quiet about abuse is bad. Abusers almost never choose just one victim. Larry Nassar had hundreds of victims, but he’d fooled them into thinking he was giving them medical treatment. Kyle Stephens wasn’t one of Larry’s patients, and he had absolutely no reason to be inserting his fingers in her vagina for ANY reason, medical or otherwise. She should have been able to come forward. There should have been an investigation. There should not have been any shame directed at the young women and girls brave enough to speak up about Larry Nassar’s abuses.

If there is anything to be learned from this case, it’s that people must be able to come forward when something is wrong. If more people had spoken up, there would have been fewer victims. I’ve come to learn that speaking up is important, even if it’s unpleasant. Because when people stay silent, abusers are allowed to continue doing what they do, destroying lives, stealing money, and ruining relationships. It’s not easy to take legal action when something isn’t right. It’s stressful and scary, and there’s always the chance that the accuser won’t be believed. But I am convinced that staying silent is almost always the wrong course of action.

Larry Nassar took enough from these women who were victimized by his sick perversions. He got away with his crimes for much too long. As I read about what he did, I wish I had spoken up too. I’m not sure what would have come of it. My guess is that I would have been blamed, as my father almost always took the other person’s side whenever there was a conflict involving me. My dad and I didn’t get along very well. It sounds like Kyle and her dad didn’t, either, particularly after the sexual abuse allegations. I’m sure that when he finally learned the truth, he felt really shitty. And, truth be told, he really should have felt shitty. He was very wrong not to believe his daughter, although I wish it hadn’t led to his decision to kill himself.

It just blows my mind to read these stories. The fact that these atrocities were hidden in plain sight– in a weird way– reminds me of the Holocaust. Countless people suffering and being murdered while people turned a blind eye and even denied that it happened… Larry didn’t directly kill anyone, to my knowledge, but he did lead to at least two suicides– Kyle’s dad’s, and Chelsea Markham’s. Chelsea’s mother was in court to testify against Larry because her daughter was dead. She could never recover from Larry’s abuses and turned to drugs, which eventually led to her premature death. Everyone who was affected by Larry Nassar’s abuses will bear those scars forever, and they will have ripple effects on others for years to come.

I have a lot of empathy for Kyle Stephens, especially. I had a dad who wouldn’t have wanted to believe me. My dad wasn’t a bad person, but he had a strange habit of minimizing any of my concerns. I paid a price for it. Fortunately, my abuser was nowhere near as bad as Larry Nassar is. He’s also long dead. Thank God for that.

Hopefully, once I’m finished with the latest book, I’ll move on to something lighter… I’ve already got Keith Richards’ life story ready.


2 thoughts on “Duty to report…

  1. Nasser is a real monster. Hopefully, if he had any resources left they could be divided up among the victims, but they can never really be compensated. People, men in particular, need to believe the stories of the victims. That said I sat on a jury many years ago where a stepdaughter had a teen drinking party at her stepfather’s home without his approval or knowledge. Her mistake was writing him a note after he busted the party to say that she was going to “get” him back. She filed charges that he came to her in the middle of the night and inserted his fingers in her. Her story was full of holes and the explicit note also damaged her case. If we thought for a moment that the stepfather was guilty we would have personally hung him. Deliberation took less than 20 minutes and it was beyond a reasonable doubt that he was innocent.

    • I fully agree that sometimes people lie about being assaulted. That’s not really the point of this post, though. If Kyle Stephens’ parents had believed her, or at least investigated more before dismissing her out of hand, there may not have been so many other victims. As for the man who abused me, I feel very sure that my older neighbor was also victimized by him. I remember she used to hang around him, too, before he lost interest. He seemed to prefer little girls.

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