"I feel like I have relived my abuse with an audience," said Rachael Denhollander

By Rose Minutaglio
May 16, 2017 03:35 PM
Credit: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal/AP

Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander testified on Friday against former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who allegedly molested dozens of young patients, including herself and an Olympic gold medalist.

Denhollander, now a 32-year-old mother of three, testified at the preliminary hearing in Michigan along with another accuser, 22, to determine if there is enough evidence for Nassar to stand trial on sexual assault charges.

Nassar, in a striped jail jumpsuit, sat only feet away from his accusers as they told similar stories of the disgraced doctor penetrating them with his fingers — without gloves.

Both were teenagers when the molestation allegedly took place.

“It felt very uncomfortable, very humiliating and very degrading,” said Denhollander, who sought treatment from Nassar 16 years ago for a sports-related injury. “But my presumption was this was what I needed to do to get better.

“I feel like I have relived my abuse with an audience. No sexual assault victim wants attention drawn to the parts of their body they want to hide forever.”

The other woman explained: “We all talked about how it was uncomfortable and we really didn’t like it and it didn’t help, but it happened to all of us, so we thought it was normal.”

RELATED VIDEO: Dozens Of Former Gymnasts Have Accused Dr. Larry Nassar Of Sexual Abuse

Denhollander came forward with her story in August after years of emotional strain. She says she was tormented by Nassar’s alleged abuse — to the point that she still distrusts male doctors altogether.

“My trust had been used against me as a weapon, and I never wanted to trust again,” she said.

More than 80 women have since come forward with similar disturbing claims.

Denhollander previously told PEOPLE her mother was in the room while Nassar allegedly assaulted her.

“He would position himself in between my mom and I, so I could not see where his hands were,” said Denhollander, who trained at a gym in her Kalamazoo, Michigan, hometown. “That was the dynamic that kept me quiet because I didn’t realize she couldn’t see.”

“The idea that someone could be sexually assaulting me for 30 minutes at a time while holding a conversation with my mother, nobody thinks that’s what assault looks like.”

The experience haunted Denhollander, who didn’t think anyone would believe her if she came forward with claims of abuse, for 16 years, until she reported the alleged crime, telling her story to the Indianapolis Star.

RELATED VIDEO: Former U.S. Gymnasts Say They Were Sexually Abused by Team Doctor

Denhollander has since filed a civil suit against Nassar and Michigan State, the location of the alleged abuse.

During Friday’s testimony, Nassar’s attorney asked the former gymnast about the suit, inquiring if she knew that money damages could hinge on the extent of her injuries,” reports NBC News.

Nassar, also charged with possession of child pornography and molesting a family friend, pleaded not guilty to all charges — his lawyers claiming that his medical “procedures” were sound.