A Victim's Voice: The sisterhood of survivors
KALAMAZOO, Mich. —
Sterling Riethman of Kalamazoo was among the first of Larry Nassar's victims to speak publicly about her abuse.
After she spoke, hundreds of women came forward, saying they were also sexually abused by the former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor.
A sisterhood of survivors has formed around the victims and, together, they're taking the fight to the institutions they say were complacent to the abuse.
Sterling said, "We kind of joke that it's this awful club that nobody wanted to be a part of, but at the same time, I'm not sure we would all get through it without each other."
The Nassar case is being called the largest sexual abuse scandal in the history of sports.
Allegations are being thrown that money and medals were put ahead of the safety and well-being of young athletes.
Riethman said, “We’re going up against some very large institutions and we can’t do that alone.”
Victims' voices that had been silenced for years were suddenly louder than ever.
Riethman had sought treatment from Nassar for a back injury she sustained as a collegiate diver.
She said, "I never once considered that I could be deceived, manipulated and outsmarted so horrendously that I would willingly drive myself to my abuser time and time again."
Speaking on a world stage from an East Lansing courtroom, she was just a few steps from her abuser.
Riethman said, "Walking up to that podium was pretty surreal."
Nassar was effectively handed a life sentence for crimes his accusers say were covered up for more than two decades.
She said, "I am passionate about making sure this doesn't happen to another little girl."
The survivors have appeared on national television and so have their parents, including Riethman’s mom. They've been to Washington D.C to help pass legislation to enact a uniform, national standard of reporting sexual abuse.
Riethman said, “We are demanding justice and we are demanding answers and we've made it very clear that our army of survivors is not going anywhere."
Michigan State University, where Nassar worked, is still dealing with backlash after it ignored multiple warnings he was abusing girls. Both the MSU president and athletic director have resigned. So has the Board of Directors of USA Gymnastics.
Riethman said, "A lot of people are saying they want to be part of the solution, the healing, we need to see action."
Michigan Attorney General, Bill Schuette has vowed a thorough investigation into MSU and a U.S. Congressional committee launched a probe of the Nassar scandal last week.
Riethman said it has turned into a battle of wills and stamina.
Riethman said, "I will never forget the moment that this other survivor's dad looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, 'You can never have enough. you can never give up.’ and to me, that's all the fuel I need."
The women also find strength in one another, knowing they share the same pain and the same hope for change.