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Culture > News

Aly Raisman Wrote a Powerful Essay in Response to Former U.S. Gymnastics Team Doctor’s Prison Sentencing

Following several former U.S. gymnasts coming forward with their stories of sexual abuse from former team doctor Larry Nassar, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges this past Thursday, the New York Times reports. Although they were not permitted to participate in the courtroom hearings, many of the athletes harmed by Nassar submitted victim impact statements to court beforehand, and 2012 and 2016 Olympian Aly Raisman has continued speaking out on her experiences with him. The gold medalist published a powerful, lengthy statement on The Players’ Tribune about the difficult aftermath sexual abuse victims face and why it is crucial to continue speaking about it. Girl, preach.

“I’ve chosen to open up about my experience because I want change,” Raisman wrote on the site where athletes share personal stories with readers. “It is very hard and uncomfortable to talk about. I have learned that everyone copes differently. There’s no map that shows you the path to healing. Some days I feel happy and protected for sharing my story. Other days I have bad anxiety and either feel traumatized from Larry Nassar’s abuse or I fear something else will happen in the future.”

Raisman previously gained attention for speaking to CBS News about the U.S. Gymnastics organization’s failure to do more to protect its athletes. According to NPR, more than 125 women have claimed that they experienced abuse from Nassar. 

In her recent piece, Raisman said of her anxiety, “I try my best to find things to help me manage my fears. I go for a walk outside. I read a book. I meditate and practice my breathing exercises…And I remind myself I am in control and that I will be okay.”

“I also want people to understand that abuse is never okay,” Raisman said. “One person is too many and one time is too often. We must protect the survivors and people who are suffering in silence. We must support those who come forward, whether it is today, tomorrow, in three months, one year from now, 10 years from now. Whenever it is, everyone must show support. Victim shaming must stop.”

Raisman, who captained the past two Olympic women’s gymnastics teams, pointed out that sexual abuse never goes away for the victim, saying that “it is forever. Healing is forever.” She also emphasized how, after much consideration, she wanted to go to Nassar’s sentencing and read her victim impact statement aloud. “I felt the judge would agree to have Larry listen to these survivors, to hear their stories about the harm he inflicted,” she said, becoming more anxious as the sentencing approached and she didn’t hear from court. “One week before his sentencing, I was told the upsetting news that the judge had denied Larry’s survivors an opportunity to speak. I was also disappointed that the other survivors wouldn’t be given the choice to speak because they may have found it healing in some way.”

Also sharing the letter she planned to read in court with the website, Raisman addressed an important point that applies to all industries affected by sexual abuse. “Those who looked the other way need to be held accountable too,” she wrote. “I fear that there are still people working at these organizations who put money, medals and reputation above the safety of all athletes. And we need to change how we support those who’ve been abused.”

Her letter planned for Nassar’s sentencing is equally emotional and powerful, focusing on her bouts of anxiety and how she struggled to separate gymnastics from Nassar for a time. Both Raisman’s letter and essay are solid reminders that many sexual abuse victims will not be silenced, and that awareness of these plights only needs to grow. 

Kristen Perrone is a Siena College Class of 2018 alumna. She studied English during her time at Siena.