Kyle Stephens Was Abused By Larry Nassar For 6 Years. She Is Not One Of The Gymnasts.

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Larry Nassar wasn’t my doctor. He was just a close family friend who spent a lot more time playing with children than the other adults did. When I was six, he exposed himself to me in his basement boiler room.

He later used games of hide-and-seek to masturbate in front of me and proceeded to molest me for six years. While my family watched football and cooked dinner, I was sacrificed to a public-health pandemic that remains shrouded in silence.

I was the first of 256 known victims to tell the world what Nassar had done to me and how it had affected my life. The steps I took to the lectern in a Michigan courtroom last month were the last moments I would spend in silence, while too many victims continue to live with their unmentionable truth.

Sexual abuse is hardly limited to Nassar, Michigan State University or USA Gymnastics. One in 9 girls, and 1 in 53 boys, will experience such abuse by their 18th birthday. I find the way we ignore or sugarcoat our most vile issues to be offensive and a big part of our problem. Our silence and inaction create a culture where predators can thrive.

As a survivor of sexual abuse, I can testify to the cascade of mental and physical health complications that stem from this trauma. My desperate need to regain jurisdiction over my life led me to eat myself sick and to compulsively exercise in fear of gaining weight. Constant anxiety made me hyperattentive to anything I could control — my body, my environment and the people in my life. I isolated myself. I felt too fat, too ugly or just simply not good enough to be around others.

These maladaptive behaviors kept me anchored in seemingly endless pain. While I avoided spiraling into more destructive behaviors, many victims turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, those who have been sexually abused are four times as likely to misuse drugs. How many tossed-aside and forgotten addicts were victimized as children?

And the effects are not limited to individuals who were physically violated. Abuse also affects the lives of the people on the periphery. I lost my father to his guilt. He committed suicide in 2016, ending both his mental anguish and debilitating chronic pain. My mother must live with her regret every day. Our unwillingness to shatter the stigma surrounding sexual exploitation keeps us from realizing the immensity of the problem and the imminent danger to those we love. It leaves our communities undereducated about prevention, as well as deprived of the resources to treat the consequences.

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