Believed: “The Parents” and “What Have You Done?”

These two episodes of the ambitious podcast "Believed" – “The Parents” and “What Have You Done?” – focus on Larry Nassar’s victims and their families, exploring the complicated, conflicted emotions that can persist when people are victimized by a seemingly known and trusted person. Judges recognized the "enormous trust" the reporters built with everyone they interviewed, allowing the survivors and parents to “reveal their deepest regrets and vulnerabilities,” and calling the end result "intimate," "revelatory," and "profound." Originally published by Michigan Radio in January 2018.

Listen to the full episodes below. Click the episode titles to learn more.




After Rachael Denhollander’s story came out in September 2016, police started getting more complaints about Larry.

Within two weeks, another 16 women and girls had come forward.

By November, Larry was charged with sexually abusing a child under the age of 13.

Even then, many wondered: how could the parents of these girls have been in the room while Larry abused their child – and not know it was happening?

For their part, the parents are asking themselves the same question.

They’ve seen all the comments online: how the parents are to blame; how they must have been so obsessed with their kids’ gymnastics careers that they just looked the other way.

And the moment Rachael Denhollander spoke out publicly about her abuse, their lives changed, too.

Suzanne Thomashow remembers showing her daughter, Jessica, the IndyStar article. Suzanne remembers Jessica reading it and then saying, “Mom, that’s what he did to me.”

Suzanne says, “That was when we figured it out. That was when she figured out that she’d been assaulted.”

Suzanne Thomashow has three daughters: Amanda, Katherine, and Jessica.

Suzanne’s oldest daughter, Amanda, is the one Larry assaulted in 2014. The one who reported Larry to MSU, after which MSU cleared him to go back to work.

Before any of that happened, Suzanne’s youngest daughter, Jessica, had also seen Larry for treatments.

But when Amanda told her mom Larry Nassar assaulted her, Suzanne didn’t even think to ask her daughter Jessica if Larry did anything to her.  

“When Amanda was assaulted, I thought it was a singular incident,” says Suzanne. “I didn’t have any idea that this was something going on for many, many, many years and I had no idea that my other daughter had been assaulted by him.”

Jessica Thomashow speaks at the Nassar sentencing in Eaton County, Michigan on January 31, 2018. Credit: Emma Winowiecki
Another reason Suzanne didn’t think to ask Jessica? Sometimes she was in the room for Jessica’s treatments.

So when Jessica told her mom Larry abused her too, Suzanne’s mind started racing back through Jessica’s appointments.

Larry had a routine: have Jessica change into loose shorts, lay down on the exam table, on her stomach. Larry would drape her with a towel.

“I would be looking at that as, ‘oh, he’s respecting her modesty by covering her.’”

Normally, at least one of Larry’s hands would be hidden from the parents’ view. To them, it always looked like Larry was doing a regular sports massage or adjustment — and the fact that he was working with the lower body wasn’t weird, given the injuries he dealt with.

What parents couldn’t see was the actual abuse — either because Larry’s hands went under the towel, or because he would block their line of sight with his body.

Here’s the other thing about parents being in the room: if you’re the kid in this situation, the one who’s having this so-called “treatment” happen to you, the fact that your parent is right there makes you think: “Well, this must be OK.”

Survivor Kaylee Lorincz recalls, “I think I was just laying there, like, trying to fight back tears, because I was in so much pain and I didn’t know why he was doing this to me.

“I didn’t want to look at my dad sitting in the room like that. I was just so uncomfortable and he would talk to my dad, like, while he was doing this. So I was like, ‘OK, maybe there’s nothing wrong with this. Like, he’s a doctor, it’s fine.’”

When Kaylee saw Rachael’s story pop up on Twitter late one night, she immediately sent it to her mom, Lisa Lorincz.

“It is the worst feeling I will ever experience as a parent because I knew… I knew then,” says Lisa.

That’s the moment Lisa knew she’d missed it.

Because Kaylee had tried to tell her mom about Larry five years ago, when she was just 13.

Right after her third appointment with Larry.

Kaylee Lorincz and a coach at the Nassar sentencing in Ingham County on January 24, 2018. Credit: Emma Winowiecki
Kaylee’s dad always went with her to the appointments. Kaylee’s mom and dad are divorced. He didn’t want to talk on the record.

Kaylee remembers, at this third appointment, Larry asked her to do something new: he wanted her to change into a pair of loose, ugly orange shorts.

He draped a towel over her lower body, and stepped in front of the table. He put his body between the massage table Kaylee was laying on, and the chair where her dad was sitting.

Under the towel, Larry moved Kaylee’s underwear to the side and thrust his fingers inside her, while chatting away about weekend plans with her dad.

Kaylee says her dad stayed in the room for the full 40-minute appointment. Larry gave Kaylee some exercises to do at home. He taped up her back.

“And that was it,” says Kaylee.

A couple hours after that appointment, 13-year-old Kaylee was in the car with her mom.

“I remember it like it was five seconds ago,” says Lisa. “I’m in the driver’s seat, she’s in the passenger seat and she said, ‘Larry did something to me today that made me feel uncomfortable.’”

“And I said, ‘Well, what do you mean?’ ‘Well, he, you know, touched me,’ and I said, ‘Well, touched you where?’ She said, ‘Down there.’ And the whole time you’re – you know what she’s saying, but you’re – you’re trying to rationalize that it can’t be that.”

Lisa got a sinking feeling in her gut. She called her ex-husband, privately, right away, to ask him about the appointment with Larry. He assured her he was in the room the whole time.

“And you know, God forgive me, I, I dropped it,” says Lisa. “I filed it back in the parenting filing cabinet until 2016. But her instincts were spot on. She knew it wasn’t right. She told a parent. She did what she should’ve done.”

So many parents feel this way.

Heartbroken. Guilty. Pissed off. Absolutely helpless and betrayed. Even that doesn’t really cut it. Words just don’t really cut it.

They are now members of a terrible club: parents who were, unwillingly and unknowingly, witnesses to their children’s abuse.


On the morning of September 20, 2016, ten police officers show up at Larry Nassar’s home with a search warrant.

An officer notices that a brown trash bin at the end of Larry’s driveway is still full. By sheer chance, the garbage truck was running late that day.

The officer dumps Larry’s trash in the back of a police pickup truck.

When they get it back to the station, officers comb through Larry’s garbage, where they find a little plastic grocery bag that’s filled with what looks like bathroom trash — q-tips, face wipes, Kleenex…and three external hard drives. Two of the drives have “Larry Nassar” written right on them.

Police discover 37,000 images of child pornography on those hard drives.

Later, Trinea Gonczar gets a phone call from a law enforcement official. Trinea says she remembers the person saying: “We can’t tell you if it’s you, but there were images of little girls in his bathtub.”

Trinea was stunned.

Trinea Gonczar once trusted Larry Nassar, without question. Credit: Jodi Westrick
You met Trinea in Episode One. Larry had treated her gymnastics injuries for decades — and she trusted him, without question.  And when you love someone, trust them completely, and then discover something that makes you question if you ever really knew them at all, it can be difficult to accept the truth.

When Trinea and her mom, Dawn Homer, saw that very first article about Larry in 2016, the one with Rachael Denhollander, they were devastated to see him accused. But Trinea says, “I honestly thought he’s got enough doctors on his side. Someone’s going to come forward and clear him, like someone’s going to explain that this treatment is legitimate.”

It’s not that they don’t believe Rachael, exactly. It’s more like, they’ve seen this play out before. Someone accuses Larry, but then it’s declared a misunderstanding, and everything’s fine again.

Like in 2004, with Brianne Randall. Or 2014, with Amanda Thomashow.

Each time Larry was believed instead of his accusers, Trinea’s trust in Larry was reaffirmed: it islegitimate treatment, she thought. Poor guy is just misunderstood.

So when Trinea saw Rachael’s story in the IndyStar in 2016, she was sad. Sad for Larry. Sad for his wife, Stefanie, and their kids.

“And I felt really bad for our gym, you know, all these people that love this person, like so much love for him,” she says.

In the fall of 2016, Larry was arrested for criminal sexual conduct.

Even then, Dawn says, she and Trinea still could not believe that Larry would hurt anyone. Not intentionally.

“This isn’t the Larry we knew,” says Dawn. “This isn’t the Larry we loved.”

Believing the truth about Larry was gradual for Trinea. A process with a few key moments.

The first was on her birthday in December 2016. The same day the federal government charged Larry Nassar with receiving and possessing child pornography.

It was around this time she received that call from the law enforcement official, telling her about the images of little girls in Larry’s bathtub and how they couldn’t say for sure if she was in the photos or not.

She says this phone call made her think back to when she was a kid, going to Larry’s apartment for treatment, icing down in his bathtub.

“You know, it’s like when you really realized that there’s another side to someone and at that point I was kind of still like, I knew that it was not good,” Trinea says. “I knew that things were not good and I knew that this had happened to me, but I was not in a space yet where I was like, ‘I’m going to come forward.’”

Larry pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography in the summer of 2017, and faced the prospect of a lengthy prison term.

But that wasn’t enough for then-Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis.

By the fall, Povilaitis says they had 125 reported sexual assault victims. And she wanted a conviction for those crimes.

Larry’s attorneys reached out to her about a plea deal, agreeing to plead guilty to sexually assaulting seven minors under the age of sixteen.

Povilaitis went out on a limb and added two stipulations to the plea deal. First, Larry would have to admit, in court, that there was no legitimate medical purpose for what he did to those girls, and that he did it for his own sexual gratification. And second, every single survivor would get to face him in court and make a statement.

On November 22, 2017, Larry Nassar stood in front of a judge, listening to his attorney read him the terms of the plea agreement. He admitted that his procedures were not for any medical purpose.  

The very same week Larry pleaded guilty to abuse, Trinea’s life changed again: she found out she was pregnant.

If the first turning point for Trinea was the child pornography, then getting pregnant was the second pivotal moment. She made an appointment with an OB-GYN. But before she could go, she began to have anxiety attacks.

“So I called my husband  like completely freaking out, like, ‘what do I do?’ And he’s like, ‘well, do we need to talk to a counselor?’”

Trinea started seeing a therapist. And memories started coming back to her, from around the time she was 10 years old and a gymnast at Great Lakes Gymnastics, where Larry was a trainer, where he taped girls up in the back room at the gym.

Young Trinea Gonczar during her Great Lakes gymnastics days.
Young Trinea Gonczar during her Great Lakes gymnastics days.

“And I started to have these memories, like of Great Lakes, when there would be covers over the windows. Like, why were there covers over the windows? I don’t know, because it doesn’t make sense now looking back. But none of the parents were allowed in that back room. And why else would there be something over those windows? You know, like you just start, all of a sudden you start remembering things that you just never questioned or never even thought twice about.”

It’s not until January of 2018 that Trinea goes to see an attorney, one who was representing several other Nassar survivors.

“And he had me fill out like 18 pages of paperwork and that’s when they estimated the amount of times that this treatment had happened to me and he said, ‘I just want to prepare you, but you’re the highest of the treatments.’”

Because Trinea saw Larry so many times for so many years, she had received more of Larry’s “treatments” than any other survivor who’d come forward at that time.

An estimated 800 times.

Back then, when she was a gymnast, she didn’t recognize it as abuse. Now, she’ll half-jokingly call herself the “practice body.”

After meeting with the lawyer, Trinea still wasn’t sure she wanted to speak in court. But she was invited to a gathering the night before Larry’s sentencing began.

It was there she heard Kyle Stephens’ story. For Trinea, hearing how Kyle was abused by Larry in his basement starting when she was just six years old, that was the final moment that changed how she thought about Larry.

“I was so furious. Like I literally want to kill him at that moment to hear her story. I was just so angry for this poor girl. And like that’s when I really transitioned myself into the decision of I can’t support him anymore and I need to support the girls. Like I need to be here for these girls. I need to make friends with these girls, like I need to, however I can be there for them.”

The next morning, January 16th, 2018, was Larry Nassar’s sentencing.

Over the course of a week, 156 women and girls came forward, with a brutal stream of tears and rage. They spoke of suicide attempts and shattered families.

But Larry sat stone-faced in the witness stand, pale and unshaven with his gold wireframe glasses.

On the fourth day of sentencing, Trinea made her statement.

Her mom Dawn remembers watching Larry, sitting at the front of that courtroom, in the  witness stand.

“When I saw him listening to the other gals, he was just stone,” says Dawn. “He didn’t show emotion. He didn’t look up. He didn’t even the slightest bit respond when they would ask a question, which I thought that was pretty amazing on his part because I don’t know how I would have been able to blacken out all the conversation. But when he saw Trinea, his face completely drained and I thought, ‘oh, we’re in for something here.’”

Dawn, standing beside her daughter while she speaks, sees Larry — for the first time in this entire court case — cry. Open, uncontrollable weeping.

Larry broke down into tears during Trinea’s statement. Credit: Emma Winowiecki
Trinea spoke:

“I had to make an extremely hard choice this week, Larry. I had to choose whether [to] continue supporting you through this or to support them: the girls. I choose them, Larry. I choose to love them and protect them. I choose to stop caring for you and supporting you. I choose to look you in the face and tell you that you hurt us, you hurt me. I hope you will see it from me in my eyes today that I believed in you always until I couldn’t anymore. I hope you cry like we cry. I hope you feel bad for what you’ve done. I hope more than anything, each day these girls can feel less pain. I hope you want that for us, but this is goodbye to you, Larry and this time it’s time for me to close the door. It’s time for me to stand up for these little girls and not stand behind you anymore, Larry.

Goodbye, Larry. May God bless your dark, broken soul.”