Jacksonville gymnast: 'I'm very happy he's going to be behind bars for most of the rest of his life'

A local gymnast who was one of the first to speak out against Larry Nassar speaks with First Coast News following word of his guilty plea.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A Jacksonville native and former elite gymnast who said she was sexually abused by former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar told First Coast News she’s glad he’ll spend decades in prison.

Nassar pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct charges Wednesday.

“Everything that he’s done to over 140 women that have come forward so far is reprehensible and I’m very happy he’s going to be behind bars for most of the rest of his life,” Jessica Howard, a three-time rhythmic gymnastics national champion, told First Coast News.

Howard was among the first women to speak publicly about Nassar.

“It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life,” she said of sharing something so personal.

In the months that followed, scores of other women came forward with similar allegations against Nassar. Most recently, gold medalist Gabby Douglas said she, too, was abused by Nassar.

“Every single person that comes forward, I feel like they’re beginning their journey to healing and I think that’s a very important first step,” Howard said.

Today, Howard teaches ballet and sees herself in the girls and young women she trains.

“I see how driven they are and how innocent they are, and it’s just abhorrent to me that somebody could take advantage of that so easily,” she said.

Meanwhile, accusations are surfacing almost daily about misconduct, abuse or harassment at the hands of high-profile, powerful men. Howard said the movement is a long time coming, a time for women to stand their ground.

“I just think it’s about time that women stand together and that we saw a significant change in the behavior of these powerful men,” she said.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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