The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down
by Abigail Pesta
Warning: This book review contains excerpts and details of crimes of a sexual nature. While we try to convey this information with respect to our readers, we will also honor the stories of the victims because their stories deserve to be heard.
As Lord Acton reminds us, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In late 1988, Larry Nassar stood before the gymnasts at Great Lake Gymnastics. “He was geeky,” describes one gymnast. “He was the complete opposite of suave.” The gymnasts learned that he would be on hand regularly at the gym, volunteering his time to help them with their injuries. While this sounds innocent enough, Nassar’s treatments would turn out to be nothing short of revulsive, and his reign of terror would not come to an end for many years.
In 1988 Sara Teristi injured herself (broken rib) while training and was sent by her coach John Geddert to see Larry Nassar. He would massage her chest with ice. At first he left her leotard in place, but soon he began moving her leotard down exposing her. Later he would touch her inappropriately. “At the time, she thought he must have a reason for doing what he did, because he was supposed to be a doctor.”
Lindsey Lemke, another young gymnast, met Larry Nassar at Twistars (gym launched by Coach John Geddert) in 2004. When she turned 10 she won state and regional championships and became a level 10 gymnast. All of this achievement did not come without injury, so she sought treatment from Larry Nassar. Larry went out of his way to befriend Lindsey and her parents. At one particular treatment, Larry told her to “take off her shorts and gave her a towel to wrap around her waist. He would use his elbow and forearm to rub up and down her back, then work his way downward toward her rear. He would knead her vagina over her shorts and then slip a hand inside the back of her shorts and start stroking her bare skin.”
Nassar “treated” girls of many ages hundreds, if not thousands, of times over many years. Many girls spoke up, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Many girls remained silent because, after all, Nassar was a doctor, so he must have a reason for doing these things. The world finally listened, and the girls got to tell their stories. “Little girls don’t stay little forever,” said Kyle Stephens. “They grow into strong women that return to destroy your (Nassar’s) world.”
My thoughts: As the parent of two (soon to be three) children, this book sickened me. I had to read the book in small increments because the details of these crimes turned my stomach. You may ask “so why continue reading?” Hopefully my answer is sufficient. The story of these young women deserves to be heard and should serve as a constant reminder to any of us who are responsible for the safety and well-being of children that we cannot ever relax on the job. Many people in this story are to blame because the evidence was right in front of everyone. Unfortunately in the eyes of some, the claims couldn’t possibly be true because Nassar was a good man and a great doctor.
Ricky Statham is director at Oneonta Public Library. Visit the library Monday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., to check out this or another great book.