Good afternoon everyone. My name is Jessica Smith and I am a dancer, teacher, survivor of Larry Nassar and also the creator of the Facebook Page, MeTooMSU. I am a firm believer that change starts with understanding and education, and am beyond grateful to be here to share my story and thoughts with you today. I am going to begin by speaking about the day that I read my impact statement in Ingham County Court.
As many other nights, I barely slept. Even when I did fall asleep, I woke up sweaty in a panic from strange dreams about hands and not being able to escape from people trying to hurt me. An outsider would explain my car ride to the courthouse with my mother as quiet, however the conversation in my head was far from. When I entered the courthouse I saw many comforting familiar faces. I saw Morgan, Larissa, and my other close Sister Survivors. I also say my attorneys, Mick Grewal and David Mittleman, who have played such a large role in my story.
The door opens, and we all cringe. Nassar enters the courtroom in his orange baggy jumpsuit. The judge is there. The public is there. The media is there. For a moment it was as though time stopped as I took in all that was in front of me. Shaking, heart racing, and sweaty palms, I made my way to the podium when it was my turn to speak. I introduced my mother as well as myself and began with my impact statement.
Because of Nassar I struggle. I struggle to trust and feel comfortable. I struggle to sleep and be healthy. I struggle to stay sane and stable. And most importantly, I struggle to be me. I am an independent, strong, loving and passionate young woman and I deserve to feel myself. However, at the end of the day I do not feel these qualities because my ability to be myself was taken away by someone who abused my trust as well as my body. The trauma that the abuse has caused me, my family, and my community can never be undone. Yet what allows me to get out of bed each day is the hope of creating a better and safer environment around me. That starts with me knowing that Nassar will no longer pose a risk and never be allowed to be a part of this community or society again. At the age of 17, I saw Nassar for a very severe ankle sprain-how he made his way to private areas still baffles me. After my first appointment, I remember looking for validation of what happened from friends who had also seen him for treatment. I recall this day like it was yesterday, asking these friends if they were ever uncomfortable. They laughed and said, “yeah we joke that Nassar was the first guy to finger us.” They laughed. I was comforted. Now I am mortified that I didn’t understand what that meant. That day I lost a large piece of myself and my sanity. Not only has this sexual abuse taken away my ability to be me, but it has also caused extreme physical and emotional pain. Since being victimized, I suffer from a rare form of extreme migraines that no neurologist has been able to understand or diagnose. This too has left me asking myself, “What is wrong with me?” over and over again.
Each day I am fighting to be me again. In addition to being inspired by other incredibly strong women and wanting to set an example to my students, my motivation to come forward publicly with my story and to be involved in this case was to set a precedent that I will not be silenced and I will seek justice. This justice includes answering the questions of who allowed this to happen for so long and who will be holding the Michigan State University, USAG and
Twisters enablers accountable. I know that the court setting a significant precedent with your ruling is critical in my healing process. With time and persistence we will all end up where we are meant. Whereas we survivors stand as strong and empowered women, Nassar will be a sick man finally understanding his overdue fate in prison.
I then thanked Judge Aquilina and listened her remarks- the words of validation and understanding the offered. As I exited the podium I turned to see my support group smiling at me. Mick, David, Larissa and others hugged me and gave me encouragement. I then sat down and took the first deep breath I had taken in a long time. I came away from this process not only one step closer in my healing process, but with a positive outlook on what had happened that day.
Looking back, I have realized how much my attorneys have been there for me. They listen when I was apprehensive to admit I was a victim, they encouraged me to speak to other survivors, they helped me share my news with the media, they help me with anything I may need. I now stand here as a survivor. They are hero’s to me, and I can safely say I would not be in this room nor where I am in my healing process without them. Sadly, not all of our experiences with legal counsels were positive. Where as someone needs to do the job of the defense counsel, of the two prepresenting Nassar, one was kind and gentle in the criminal case and the other caused trauma to the already traumatized.
As the MSU College of Law, the greatest takeaway I hope you have from my story is how both my attorneys and the judge used their power and authority for positivity. I want you to know that you have the ability to change lives through the justice and truth that you seek. You are here for a reason. And I have all of the hope in the world that what I have spoke to you about today will soon be a conflict of the past. In whatever path you choose, I challenge you will always choose right over wrong and use your power for positivity.
Once again, thank you for having us today. We would like to now allow for any questions that you may have about any parts of our experiences or stories