Despite her Olympic gold medals and her relentless advocacy for survivors of sexual abuse, gymnast Aly Raisman told a huge crowd Wednesday at LSU that she still struggles at times to open up about what happened to her and about the people who refused to listen.
Raisman, a 23-year-old Massachusetts native, brought home Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016 for her gymnastics performances. But she has more recently become nationally known as one of the more than 150 women who said they were molested by former U.S. gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.
Nassar, who was convicted earlier this year on counts of sexual assault of minors and had previously been convicted on child pornography charges, has been sentenced in multiple courts to effectively spend the rest of his life behind bars. Despite the convictions, Raisman said Wednesday, there still have not been enough changes within gymnastics organizations, college campuses and society to stop sexual assault before it happens.
She implored the audience of more than 1,000 who filled LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center to be brave but to know that “it’s OK to not be OK” after surviving sexual abuse.
Olympic gold medalist and sexual abuse survivor Aly Raisman encouraged other survivors Wednesday to be brave and to seek help as she visited L…
“I’m not as strong as I looked in those 12 or 13 minutes,” Raisman said, reflecting on her searing testimony at Nassar’s sentencing earlier this year that captured national headlines. “I don’t think people understand how much it affects me every day. … It took everything I had to be strong in that moment.”
Though Raisman’s abuse happened under the guise of medical treatment, she broadened her message Wednesday to discuss sexual assault on college campuses. She reminded audience members that no matter how much someone has had to drink or what they wear, it does not make it OK for someone to sexually abuse them. And she asked attendees to look out for each other when they attend parties.
She also said college campuses need to do more to educate students about sexual assault, and to stop hesitating to believe survivors and to stop trying to sweep abuse under the rug.
Raisman’s speech was part of the Delta Gamma sorority’s lectureship in values and ethics program, and Delta Gamma representatives encouraged students after Raisman spoke to seek out campus resources for survivors.
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Raisman said during a brief interview before her speech that she hopes to leave a legacy of making gymnastics a safer sport. And she told reporters she wanted to make sure that people understand the #MeToo movement of people coming forward to report abuse.
“I have a hard time with it, too, because I’ve been talking about it and pushing for change, and it’s still not enough, and it’s taking forever,” Raisman said, adding that it’s important for her to talk to friends and family, unplug from her phone and to go to therapy and acupuncture treatments.
An audience member during Raisman’s question-and-answer session asked about how to get more men involved in conversations about sexual abuse. Females were the vast majority of audience attendees.
Raisman said it’s important that everyone be part of creating change that stomps out abuse. And she said it starts with small steps, like calling out friends or co-workers who are prone not to believe stories of sexual assault or laugh about those situations.
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“We shouldn’t feel uncomfortable correcting someone when they’re making fun of someone coming forward for abuse; that’s unacceptable,” Raisman said.
She said parents need to teach children when they are young what their private parts are and why other people should not be touching them. And she encouraged people to go through Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children training to learn to recognize and prevent sexual assault.
Raimsan also asked audience members to be kind to themselves. She thanked her family, friends and faith for instilling within her the belief that being a good person is more important than winning championships. And she asked people to remember that.
“Every single one of us is battling something, no matter what it is,” she added. “We’re all survivors of something.”
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