In a recent Good Morning America interview, gymnast Simone Biles said she takes anxiety medication and goes to therapy following the Larry Nassar trial, ABC News reports. A four-time Olympic gold medalist, Biles was one of 160 women to accuse former USA Gymnastics team sports doctor, Larry Nassar, of sexual abuse, according to BBC News. Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison in January 2018 for multiple convictions.
"I’m on anxiety medicine now because I had a lot of ups and downs throughout the year and trying to figure out what was wrong," Biles told Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. "I go to therapy pretty regularly."
"People do look up to me so if they can see Simone can be strong enough then hopefully I can too — and that's the message I wanted to give," she said on the segment.
Biles also told Good Morning America that she has felt "a bit broken" following a year where her abuser was in the spotlight, and described 2018 as the year she found her courage to speak out. "There were a lot of points in this year that made me who I am today and I feel stronger," she said. "I feel like this year gave me a voice and I tried to find my voice this year and use that to the better potential and positive manner."
Biles had previously told the BBC that her decision to discuss her abuse publicly “was very hard, but I figured out that if I can tell my story then it might encourage other people to tell theirs.” She said wanted to speak out as a role model for other abuse survivors, and to support her fellow gymnasts. "I think it was very important to support the fellow gymnasts it had happened to and to speak up for what you believe in and say 'I don't think this is right' and I hope I gave them courage to come out and tell their stories one day if they want to."
Reporting sexual abuse can be a complicated decision for many survivors, and there are significant reasons why some decide not to report their assaults. Societal stigma can create a major barrier for many, Psychology Today notes. A survivor may lack the support and resources they need to come forward, or they might not know where to turn for help. Sexual assault survivors may also fear further stigma if they decide to come forward in a culture that may disbelieve, deny, or shame survivors. Many survivors may fear being retraumatized during the legal process, or otherwise prefer not to report: According to RAINN, of the sexual violence crimes not reported to police between 2005 and 2015, 20 percent of survivors said that they feared retaliation from their abuser, while 13 percent didn't believe that police would actually help them.
Whether or not a survivor decides to report is a very, very personal decision. The mental health injuries that can happen during the reporting process, in addition to any trauma that a survivor might be dealing with already, mean that reporting can be a very difficult decision for sexual abuse survivors. Given that survivors often face such a dearth of support while in trauma recovery, professional therapy can be a life-saving and invaluable tool for many, as Biles has said.
While the #MeToo movement has helped make reporting safer for survivors by directly challenging cultural silencing and stigmas, there’s still a long way to go. By overturning individual and cultural prejudices against abuse survivors, and creating a culture that is less toxic towards traumatized people, it might be possible for more survivors to report their abuse moving forward. In the meantime, survivors like Biles can help pave the way for more supportive cultural conversations about the ramifications of sexual abuse, and how to get help if you need it.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.