Sexual assault: it has been the topic of many news cycles recently and has sparked a new phenomenon in Hollywood, fashion, business, technology and sports. In the wake of the #MeToo moment, Larry Nassar’s crimes were also brought to light. For those unfamiliar, Nassar is a former Olympic gymnastics doctor guilty of sexually assaulting hundreds of young gymnasts during their time in his care. One of these gymnasts, Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, has decided to take a stand.
Raisman has founded “Flip the Switch,” a campaign being used to teach people how to protect children from sexual abuse. The gymnast does not want any future athletes to endure the same type of treatment that she once did. She teamed up with Darkness to Light, a nonprofit with the goal of ending child sexual abuse through the empowerment of adults. Raisman notes that “Sexual abuse is something that needs to be discussed openly — especially now — given the challenges our sport is facing, and all adults should become educated as to how to prevent it. Ignoring the issue, in hopes that it goes away, is unacceptable. Athlete safety must be the highest priority.”
With help from Darkness to Light, Raisman created a training program that can be used by adults in order to help spot warning signs of mistreatment, get them more involved in youth sports as well as helping stop abuse. According to its website, “The #FlipTheSwitch campaign was inspired by the many people who have voiced concern to Aly about the lack of support and attention being devoted to the issue of sexual abuse within the sport of gymnastics, particularly at the grassroots level.”
Raisman has shared the campaign on her social media platforms in order to gain a larger reach and, after a participant finishes the program, Raisman has even said she will sign the certificate of completion. Activists can use the code FLIPTHESWITCH to take the training free of charge and learn how to be an ally for children suffering from childhood abuse. Most victims of childhood abuse are unlikely to report it and RAINN reports that those encountering sexual abuse are more likely to have long-lasting effects on their mental health.
Raisman also took another stand and decided to sue the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and USA Gymnastics for their negligence. Raisman believes both the USOC and USA Gymnastics hid Nassar’s behavior and failed to take action. Raisman won’t be the first gymnast to sue USA Gymnastics either. Her fellow teammate from the 2012 games, McKayla Maroney, also sued to say the organizations tried to silence her own claims. We can only hope that the campaign helps more people become involved in the fight to end sexual abuse and raises awareness about the prevalence of sexual abuse that takes place in sports.