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Death of John Geddert denying survivors closure as they fight for accountability

Posted at 5:42 PM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 20:13:14-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Former U.S. Gymnastics coach John Geddert took his own life Thursday, just hours after being charged with 24 different sexual abuse and human trafficking charges.

It’s the latest in the fallout of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal. Geddert was a long-time friend of Nassar’s and was also charged with one count of lying to police, believed to be covering up his knowledge of Nassar’s decades of abuse.

However, for the survivors of Nassar and Geddert, these updates make it difficult to move forward and is often like reliving their trauma all over again.

Larissa Boyce, a Nassar abuse survivor, experienced a range of emotions after learning of Geddert’s death.

“I just think I feel numb honestly, shocked and numb,” she said.

The past four years have been a very public and painful, never-ending cycle for Boyce.

She said, “It’s always been a constant battle; there’s always something whether it’s with Kathy or Larry or Geddert or MSU, there’s always something that pops up.”

Boyce trained under Geddert briefly when she was a young athlete before he started Twistars Gymnastics. Boyce later switched clubs when her mother grew concerned about his intense coaching methods.

Boyce said learning about his death was yet another blow.

“The whole situation is just devastating and heartbreaking and maddening, because we finally thought that after however many years, John Geddert was going be held accountable and that we are going to get justice finally on that side of things,” she said.

Patti Haist, the director of Crisis Intervention Services at the YWCA in Grand Rapids, called it a ‘slap in the face’ to survivors.

“His victims have now been robbed of being able to see justice,” she said.

Beyond that, Boyce said Geddert's survivors won’t get the same closure she did by getting to face Nassar during his sentencing.

She recalled, “It was a way of gaining back, for me personally, gaining back my power, my voice, my self-worth being able to tell this person how they hurt me. It was huge in my healing process.”

That healing process, Haist said, can also be interrupted when survivors are faced with things that remind them of their abuse, especially in high-profile cases like this one.

“That can be a trigger for survivors that brings it all back and causes them to re-experience the same or similar feeling to what they felt when they were being abused,” she said.

Those triggers can then manifest themselves physically and emotionally. Haist said it can be different for every survivor.

“Potentially having flashbacks or nightmares or difficulty sleeping or high anxiety,” she said.

Haist said that when these things make headlines, or if you know someone who’s been abused, the biggest thing to keep in mind is compassion. It’s also what Boyce wishes for too.

“It didn’t just hurt us as survivors; his family is grieving too, so I think people need to be conscious about that,” Boyce said.

While Geddert’s case has come to an abrupt end, Boyce said she’s nowhere near done pushing for change in how sexual abuse is handled in our sports and institutions, especially within MSU and USA Gymnastics.

“Just because the big, huge cases are over, doesn’t mean that we haven’t stopped fighting. We are still fighting for justice, we are still fighting for accountability and honestly we won’t stop until we see that happen,” she said.

The YWCA in Grand Rapids has a 24/7 confidential crisis hotline where you can report abuse, whether it’s happening now or you need support years down the road.

That number is 616-454-9922.

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