More Than 150 Women Described Sexual Abuse By Lawrence Nassar. Will Their Testimony Help Them Heal?

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Melody Posthuma Van der Veen confronts Dr. Lawrence B. Nassar, former physician of the American gymnastics team, in court in Lansing, Mich., earlier this month. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

The spectacle of more than 150 young women telling their stories of sexual abuse before a court, the world, and the perpetrator himself seemed straight from the movies, a cathartic ending to a dark, yearslong drama that had been all too real.

It is rare, perhaps unprecedented, for so many victims to stand in court and, with the encouragement of a judge, to describe aloud for days the abuse they endured. Therapists said that the chance to testify at the sentencing hearing of Dr. Lawrence B. Nassar was worth taking for those who felt ready to do so.

The women were taken at their word; they were part of group, bonded by shared experience; and they saw justice done before their eyes

“I can’t think of a better scenario,” said Elaine Ducharme, a psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn., who specializes in treating trauma from sexual abuse and other violations. “To have the judge hear them, to allow their stories to influence her decisions, and all without putting them through the trauma of an actual trial. Most of them are likely to have felt tremendous relief.”

Yet such scenarios are rare, as many less prominent victims know. Disclosing a traumatic secret — telling your story in all its awful detail — is a dicey proposition that may or may not bring relief, depending on who’s listening and the nature of the trauma itself, Dr. Ducharme and other experts said.

Source: The New York Times