Actress and former rhythmic gymnast Akemi Look, who accused Dr. Larry Nassar of molesting her when she was a teenager, said she carried around the anger and guilt of what happened with her for years.
“I blamed myself for years because I was so angry,” Look told “20/20.” “I trusted this man… I didn't want to accuse him of anything because he was this God. He was this doctor who we all looked up to, who I believed cared about me so much.”
Nassar, 54, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on Wednesday for sexually assaulting former gymnasts and other young women. He had pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving girls who were 15 years old or younger and faces sentencing next week after pleading to three more counts in a nearby county. Nearly 160 women have come forward with abuse allegations against him, including Look.
“He’s dead to me,” Look said. “Justice is not over, at all. There were institutions that allowed this to happen, the culture of abuse in gymnastics that allowed this to happen.”
Watch the full story on "20/20" as ABC's Elizabeth Vargas sits down with two dozen Nassar accusers TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET
Look started training in rhythmic gymnastics at age 10 and within four years she had made the national team. So dedicated to the sport, Look said she competed at the 2002 World Championships with a broken rib, which could have punctured her lung.
“[In] rhythmic gymnastics, you’re contorting yourself, you’re bending yourself in all of these different ways,” she said. “[The team trainers] sat me down and they said, ‘Listen, if you really want to compete…then you need to sign this waiver that says that no one will be held responsible for your death.’ And I signed it. I signed it. I begged my parents to sign it. They signed it, and I competed.”
Nassar had become an assistant professor and team physician at Michigan State University, and was named the national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics in 1996.
Look said she was first treated by Nassar for a broken toe in 1999. After her first appointment, she said Nassar sent her a note that said, “toe, boo boo, better” with a smiley face.
“What doctor does that?” Look said.
She saw Nassar three of four times after that for various injuries. She was 15 years old when she went to him to be treated for back pain, and that's when the molestations started, she said.
“I’m only wearing a leotard because by this time, I know that if I’m going to see Larry, he’s [going to say], ‘I need to have access to your body, I need to be able to see the alignment,’” Look said. “Looking back, it … makes me want to throw up sometimes.”
At that appointment, she said Nassar asked her to lie on her back and told her he needed to “make an adjustment.” She said he then penetrated her vagina using his fingers.
“He was so cheerful the whole time, ‘OK, so can you hop off the table… and I want you to tell me if it still hurts, if that helped you,’” Look said. “I said, ‘It’s fine, It’s fine.’ And that moment haunts me to this day because it’s not fine. It was never fine.”
The encounter left Look feeling “utterly broken,” she said.
“I felt so violated and so embarrassed that someone had touched me there,” she said. “I had to justify it to myself by saying he was trying to heal me, that he was doing everything he could.”
Look said she never told anyone about what happened until she heard the news of Nassar’s arrest in November 2016. At the time, she said she was about to audition for a role in the movie, “A Wrinkle in Time.”
“I was so numb and in shock,” Look said. “I ran away from… the thing that haunted me every step of my adult life, the convincing that I had do, and the rage of being silent.”
When Nassar’s sentencing hearing came up, Look said she submitted a victim’s impact statement but didn’t want to appear in court at first. It wasn’t until she saw other women step forward that she decided to join them. She arrived on the day of Nassar’s sentencing, only to learn that her victim’s statement had already been read in court so she would not be allowed to read it herself.
“I was devastated that I couldn’t stand there and speak because I had so much more to say that couldn’t be said in a written document,” she said.
But Look hopes that coming forward now and sharing her story could help others in the future. She took comfort in knowing that she was far from alone.
“I think every day that I matter, that my voice matters,” she said. “I felt like I for the first time I had… women who knew what I had been struggling through my entire life and the process of realizing that this was so incredibly messed up what we all had been through.”
Look said she now goes by Akemi, her middle name, instead of Taryn, her first name.
“I gave up my first name,” Look said. “Taryn represented my life as a gymnast and everything that came with it, the sacrifices, the abuse, the pain, all of it, and I really didn’t want to be associated [with] that anymore.”
She continued, “Akemi is the name that for me is empowering because it’s me saying, ‘This is who I am and I am not who these other people made me to be. Akemi means the sunrise and dawn and new beginnings… for me, it was the beginning of a fresh start to my adult life.”