Aly Raisman is speaking out about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. She’s bravely sharing how she finally came to terms with being a victim of sexual assault.
“I was just so scared and nervous about what people were going to think,” Raisman told People. “I was a textbook victim, brainwashed to believe I was fine.”
The 23-year-old details the horrifying experience in her autobiography “Fierce,” in bookstores now. She claims the former Michigan State University doctor, who is currently awaiting sentencing on child pornography charges in Michigan, started molesting her when she was 15.
“I just thought he was weird. I want people to know that I really didn’t know what was happening to me. He was a doctor, and he told me that his treatment would heal all of my injuries,” Raisman told Hoda Kotb in an interview on “Today.” “I was so young. I had never really worked with another doctor or trainer before, and everyone said that he was the best.”
Nassar has been accused of sexually abusing hundreds of female athletes — including Raisman’s teammate McKayla Maroney — who opened up about her experience in a bold #MeToo post. He was fired by USA Gymnastics in 2015 and is facing 33 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
In an excerpt from her book, Raisman explains that she didn’t realize there was anything wrong with Larry’s “methods.” It was when she started seeing other doctors — who would drape towels over her hips and buttocks for privacy when she had her hamstrings worked on — that she realized something was wrong.
“It was different with Larry,” she writes. “I would lie on the table, my hands involuntarily balling themselves into fists as his ungloved hands worked their way under my clothing. ‘Treatment sessions’ with him always made me feel tense and uncomfortable. I would grit my teeth, trying to convince myself that all this was part of the healing process. The truth was he never made my injuries feel any better, but I always obeyed because he had a reputation for being the best doctor.”
Raisman was first interviewed about Nassar in 2015 as part of the investigation by USA Gymnastics. She claims she made it clear that he touched her inappropriately, but also made excuses for him because “that’s often what people do when they’re manipulated.”
After she realized how wrong it was she asked to speak to the investigator again, but USA Gymnastics rejected her. Her treatment by the organization prompted her to speak out about her experience, both in her book and during an appearance on “60 Minutes”.
When asked by the news show why it took so long for many of Nassar’s victims to come forward, she had quite a fierce response. “Why are we looking at why didn’t the girls speak up?” she said. “Why not look at what about the culture? What did USA Gymnastics do, and Larry Nassar do, to manipulate these girls so much that they are so afraid to speak up?”
However, she does regret not coming forward sooner. “When I look back now, it makes me angry, upset and sad that we didn’t trust our own fears,” she told People.
The last few months have been difficult for Raisman, as the #MeToo campaign triggered by the controversy surrounding Harvey Weinstein has taken over news and social media. “There have been some days where I feel so much anxiety and I feel sick. I’ve never really had that before. It’s just nerve-wracking because you don’t know how people are going to react,” Raisman says.
Team USA responded by issuing a statement expressing its support for Raisman and saying it was “appalled” by Larry Nassar’s conduct. “We are committed to doing what is right, and we want to work with Aly and all interested athletes to keep athletes safe.”
This isn’t the first time Raisman has inspired us with her brave approach to honesty: The Olympian recently revealed she was bullied for her muscular physique after sharing an eloquently written Instagram post about the incident in 2016.
“Shoutout to all the boys from 5th-9th grade who made fun of me for being ‘too strong,’” Raisman wrote. “Thanks for forcing me to learn to love myself and my body. My muscular arms that were considered weird and gross when I was younger have made me one of the best gymnasts on the planet.”
If, like Raisman, you have suffered sexual abuse, there is help and support out there. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
What Do YOU Think?
Are you surprised by Aly Raisman’s confession about being sexually abused? Do you think this sort of behavior is more common in sports than people think? How can we advocate change at a personal level?