On Friday, January 19, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman gave a powerful 13-minute statement at the trial of Larry Nassar, a former USA gymnastics doctor who has been accused of sexually abusing over 140 women and girls, reports Rolling Stone.
Raisman, 23, told 60 Minutes last November that she was among Nassar’s countless victims, and that Nassar began molesting her when she was 13. “I am angry,” she said at the time. “I’m really upset because I care a lot, when I see these young girls that come up to me, and they ask for pictures or autographs, whatever it is, every time I look at them, every time I see them smiling, I just think I just want to create change so that they never, ever have to go through this.”
Nassar is currently on trial for seven counts of criminal sexual conduct charges. Over 120 women are expected to testify against him — something Nassar has protested, saying that it’s too hard for him to listen to. (Judge Rosemarie E. Aquilina quickly shut him down.) He is already serving 60 years in prison for possessing child pornography, and he may face 125 more.
Raisman was the 73rd victim to speak at the trial. Raisman began by thanking the judge and sharing that she almost didn’t testify:
Your honor, thank you for the opportunity to make this statement here today, and thank you for providing the time and flexibility for all the other brave survivors to make their statement. Each survivor deserves to be heard equally.
I didn’t think I would be here today. I was scared and nervous. It wasn’t until I started watching the impact statements from the other brave survivors that I realized, I too, needed to be here.
Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long a period of time, are now a force and you are nothing.
The tables have turned, Larry. We are here, we have our voices, and we are not going anywhere.
And now, Larry, it’s your turn to listen to me.
Raisman went beyond condemning Nassar to call for structural changes in US gymnastics to prevent further abuse by others:
I have represented the United States of America in two Olympics and have done so successfully. And both U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee have been very quick to capitalize on and celebrate my success. But did they reach out when I came forward? No.
So at this point, talk is worthless to me. We’re dealing with real lives and the future of our sport. We need to believe this won’t happen again.
For this sport to go on, we need to demand real change, and we need to be willing to fight for it. It’s clear now that if we leave it up to these organizations, history is likely to repeat itself.
To know what changes are needed requires us to understand what exactly happened and why it has happened.
This is a painful process, but it’s the only way to identify all the factors that contributed to this problem and how they can be avoided in the future.
You can read Raisman’s full statement at the New York Times.
top photo: Wikimedia Commons/Agencia Brasil Fotografias
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