“1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004…”
With each pause another turn in your stomach.
“2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016…”
Listing the years that survivors spoke out about Larry Nassar — and were ignored — while standing on stage with 140 other women affected by his sexual abuse, Olympic champion Aly Raisman demonstrated both the resilience in women and the consequences of inaction and enablement.
“All those years we were told you are wrong. You are misunderstood. He’s a doctor,” she explained.
To demonstrate the full extent of the systematic failures at USA Gymnastics and the damages of Nassar’s abuse is, in itself, an impossible task.
But the ESPYs painted an illuminating picture last night.
“To all the survivors out there, don't let anyone rewrite your story. Your truth does matter. You matter. And you are not alone.”
— ESPYS (@ESPYS) July 19, 2018
On Wednesday, Nassar survivors took the ESPYs stage to accept the “Arthur Ashe Award for Courage”. Leading the group was Raisman, Sarah Klein and Tiffany Thomas Lopez, who fearlessly lent their voices to the uprising against the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University team doctor.
As a woman, a sports fan and a human being, watching these survivors canvass the stage sent a chill down my spine.
In a year where we’ve seen campaigns such as “Time’s Up”, and “Me Too” in the entertainment world, I couldn’t help but wonder when these issues would be thrust under the spotlight in sport, and how it would be portrayed.
Honouring and empowering the women that were abused by Nassar — and not presenting them as victims, but as Sister Survivors — the ESPYs did it right.
It wasn’t rushed. It was a moment in time that allowed these survivors the opportunity to stand in unity and say to the world: ‘Look at us. We are the faces of sexual assault. We’re still here.’
Said Klein in her eight-minute speech: “Make no mistake, we are here to present an image for the world to see, a portrait of survival, a new vision of courage.”
Klein represented the beginning of the pattern of abuse, over 30 years ago.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) July 19, 2018
When unimaginable things occur in our society we often hear of the horrid details (Nassar pleaded guilty in January to sexually assaulting over 250 girls), but rarely do we get to see the faces of those affected. This makes it hard to fully grasp the impact.
So when 140 women stand with strength and courage for the world to see, you better understand the magnitude.
“To all the survivors out there, don’t let anyone re-write your story. Your truth does matter, you matter, and you are not alone,” said Raisman.
It was a scene that we’ve never experienced in sport. It was powerful, somehow comforting, but still a scene I never want to have to see again.
Let us hope that the impact helps people remember there are faces behind the numbers and statistics of sexual abuse. Let us hope that no longer will hundreds of young people be silenced for speaking their truth.
Let us take action, so that this never happens again.
“We may suffer alone, but we survive together.” — Aly Raisman