Often left hungry by the rigorous workouts required of elite gymnasts, former Olympian McKayla Maroney initially felt nothing but gratitude when former team physician Larry Nassar gifted her with a loaf of bread.
“I think I would have starved at the Olympics if I didn’t have him bring me food,” the former gymnast said in an upcoming interview on NBC News’ Dateline.
Maroney at first believed Nassar, who is currently behind bars, was being nice to her. But she’s since come to realize the snacks he would give her when no one was looking was actually a tactic abusers often use to groom potential victims.
“Your coaches are just always watching you and wanting to keep you skinny,” Maroney recalled. “And there’s just other things about the culture that are so messed up that he used against us.”
Maroney, who has accused Nassar of abusing her “hundreds of times” over the course of her gymnastics career, acknowledged even the simplest gestures from the doctor would earn her gratitude.
“He would buy me a loaf of bread,” she said.
Maroney is among scores of women who have detailed the sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of the ex-Michigan State University physician — many of them similarly recalling how Nassar would use treats to not only earn their trust, but also to manipulate them into silence.
After listening to survivors testify on how he would abuse them under the guise of medical treatment for days on end, Nassar in January was handed up to 175 years behind bars on sexual abuse charges.
The following month he was handed another 40 to 125 years on three more abuse charges and was sentenced separately last year on child pornography charges.
Maroney provided a written victim impact statement to be read during Nassar’s sentencing hearing, telling him that he “left scars on my psyche that may never heal.”
She also took aim at the institutions — USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic Committee and Michigan State University — which she has accused of allowing Nassar to thrive as a predator.
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