July 24 (UPI) -- "Promise you'll never take her back."
Those were the words gymnastics coach Pat Warren offered to the family of Kate Hall in 2016 regarding Larry Nassar.
Warren considered Nassar a friend at the time, but got an odd feeling from the former Michigan State and USA gymnastics doctor after he called her on the phone while crying. Nassar was named in a report that Warren submitted to the Indianapolis Star, regarding his knowledge of child molestation committed by coach Marvin Sharp. Sharp later killed himself in prison after being charged.
Hall, now 18, was 13 when she regularly started seeing Nassar for a back injury. She was on the fast track to being an elite gymnast, recruited by colleges and eyeing the Olympics. She marveled at the photos of her gymnastics heroes on the walls of Nassar's office. He was a doctor her parents were advised to see, who treated the sport's brightest stars.
Hall's parents attended all of her visits with Nassar in East Lansing, Mich., once or twice a month. They sat just feet away when Nassar inappropriately touched their daughter, using barriers in the room so he could perform his massages, "treatments," and hide his crimes. That continued until the day her family received the call from Warren. The coach gave no further explanation for why they should halt the visits, except to say, "You will know soon enough."
Hall retired from the sport at 16 and came forward about Nassar's abuse in 2017. Her statement was one of the more than 100 read in court before Nassar was sentenced to life in prison.
Now Hall is one of the hundreds of women fighting for change. She was one of the 141 survivors standing on the stage during the 2018 ESPY Awards this month, receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
She will also be in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, watching Michigan State interim president John Engler appear before a U.S. Senate subcommittee.
"As parents you feel like you've failed in one of those major things that parents can do for their kids and all of that stuff," Hall's father Jeff Hall said. "But as you talk to the parents, you find out that you aren't the only one. How he did it, how he was able to manipulate the situation, so that you didn't know what was going on was very similar."
"The case with many of the parents that probably saw him in his clinic at MSU ... The girls on the Olympic team, the girls at the ranch ... in many cases I talked to many parents that were there like we were and didn't know. These kids at that age, with us there, they don't comprehend what is actually happening."
"It was all a big sham."
Threats and pressure
Warren has been involved in gymnastics for more than 30 years. She first reported Sharp in 2011 to USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny. She said she also reported abuse within the program to gymnastics coach John Geddert, but "nobody" did anything about it. Warren also said she called social services in 2011, but was told there was nothing that could be done if the athlete or the parent didn't say anything about abuse.
She said she is fearful for the girls' lives due to the pressures within the program and Nassar's abuse.
"You want to make sure that one of them does not commit suicide because this is such a horrible thing for these children to have to go through," she said. "These people just want to make the Olympic team so badly that they allow all of this stuff to happen."
Hall said other gymnasts were "basically threatened" by officials to remain silent, holding their Olympic dreams in limbo.
"I know from USA Gymnastics, they threatened some of the high-level gymnasts like Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols," Hall said. "'Don't say anything, keep quiet,' and basically threatened them. Because the type of people they were telling were the people that picked the Olympic teams, that picked the national team."
"They basically threatened them saying, 'if you say anything, we will take this away from you.' Maggie Nichols walked away from the opportunity to go to the Olympics in 2016 because she came out in 2015 to authorities that Larry Nassar had been doing this. But a lot of these gymnasts were silenced because they were threatened by things, because USGA and Michigan State were more worried about medals and money that they were threatening the girls if it came out."
Warren said she agrees with the systemic sentiment of winning over everything. The coach stopped working with USA Gymnastics in 2001, but returned to the sport a year later to work at DeVeau's School of Gymnastics in Indiana. She met Hall while working years later in an Ohio gym. She criticized Marta and Bela Karolyi, but also some parents, for not doing more. The Karolyis have denied knowledge of Nassar's abuse.
"I'm not blaming the Halls," Warren said. "Their kid was very talented and all they were trying to do was get her to a club that would take care of her ... I think that's why they were only trying to find a place that wasn't abusive to children and guess what? You can't find any.
"I can count on one hand the amount of clubs I would take my kid to ... That I would even have my athlete take gymnastics to because there is so much abuse out there."
Kate Hall said the Sister Survivors want to make sure those people who knew about Nassar at Michigan State answer for deciding not to come forward -- and at USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee.
"I know that is a huge thing that a lot of us are concerned about right now," Hall said. "Making sure those people get taken care of as well as Nassar because this all could have been stopped if one person would have said something. That's the reason why a few of us are going to D.C. to testify against John Engler, USA Gymnastics and the Olympic Committee."
Kate Hall said she has a friend working with sexual assault victims in Colorado and others who are starting a campaign to raise awareness so that crimes like Nassar's never happen again.
"A lot of people think we are coming out and going to the media to get publicity, but I know that all of us are just working toward raising awareness and making change happen," Hall said. "It's really amazing that this has grown and that's what it's doing. It's drawing attention. It's changing everything."