#Women'sHistoryMonth: Aly Raisman: A Champion for Survivors

The six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman has become a voice for women everywhere. Member and captain of the USA Gymnastics Olympic Team's Fierce Five of 2012 and the Final Five of 2016, Raisman is no stranger to the spotlight. The gymnast, originally known for her athletic ability, is now known for something else as well - her voice for change.

I have been an athlete and a fan of women’s gymnastics since I put on my first leotard at the age of two. Olympic gymnasts like Aly Raisman, Simone Biles and Jordan Wieber were the women I admired. They were strong, smart, powerful, beautiful and kind, and they are some of the best role models for young girls. When the news broke about the sexual abuse inside USA Gymnastics, everyone was watching. Besides the Olympics, I can’t remember a time where gymnastics was on the tongue of every person I came across. Everyone was talking about the trial and the women who were fighting back against their abuser.

In January of 2018, Raisman was one of the many voices to speak up and confront her now convicted sexual abuser, Larry Nassar, in court. She is among many gymnasts and Olympians like McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas, Jordan Wieber and Simone Biles who were abused by the doctor. According to The Guardian, Nassar was sentenced to 300 years in prison for his crimes, as well as 60 years for possession of child abuse images. Raisman was one of the higher profile victims to speak out at his trial, pleading the judge to not only punish her abuser, but also the leadership that let this happen for so many years.

In her statement at Nassar’s hearing, Raisman said, “My dream is that one day everyone will know what the words ‘me too’ signify, but they will be educated and able to protect themselves from predators like Larry, so they will never, ever, ever have to say the words ‘me too.’”

Aly Raisman at the sentencing hearing for Lawrence G. Nassar in January. 

Photo Credit: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

In the year since the trial, Aly Raisman has made her voice heard against USA Gymnastics, which has recently filed for bankruptcy after the financial weight of the Nassar suits, according to The Washington Post, as well as the US Olympic Committee, which was complicit to Larry Nassar and his abuse. She, along with many past Olympians, has spoken out for the need for change in the US programs.

Raisman is now the voice for many: an activist for body positivity, sexual assault survivors and female empowerment. She is one of the models for Aerie’s body positivity campaign, #AeireReal. Raisman became a part of this campaign because she wanted girls to know that anybody is feminine - something she wished she was told as a young girl. Raisman told People, “I don’t want any young athlete to ever walk into a store and feel that their body type isn’t feminine. No matter what you look like, your body is unique. If we all had the same body type, it would be so boring!”

In 2018, Raisman did a photo shoot with Sports Illustrated to make her thoughts on victim blaming perfectly clear. She did a nude photo shoot, with only words and phrases like “Survivor,” “Women do not have to be modest to be respected,” “Fierce” and “Every Voice Matters” written on her body.

Photo posted on Aly Raisman’s Instagram for 2019’s International Women’s Day

In 2019, she is still fighting for women. Aly Raisman is now partnering with Darkness to Light, an organization focused on preventing child sexual abuse.

In January, Aly wrote an essay in Cosmopolitan about the problem of victim blaming, “It breaks my heart to hear victims blame themselves because of their outfit choice.”

Later she stated, “I wish everyone understood that abuse has nothing to do with clothing. It’s about power and entitlement, and it’s never okay.” 

Photo from Aly Raisman’s Instagram

Raisman does not see herself as a victim, but a survivor of sexual assault. The second most decorated female Olympic gymnast in United States' history, Raisman wants to use her platform and spotlight to help prevent sexual assault and help other survivors like herself heal and survive together.