While speaking at an event at Louisiana State University on Wednesday, Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman spoke about sexual abuse and what it took for her to confront Larry Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics whom she says sexually abused her. Raisman reportedly shared a message of solidarity for survivors of sexual abuse, telling them "it is OK not to be OK" after experiencing something as harrowing as sexual violence.
The Olympic gold medalist shared her thoughts at the university's Maravich Assembly Center and said, "I'm not as strong as I looked in those 12 or 13 minutes." The athlete was referring to her powerful testimony against Nassar in January. "I don’t think people understand how much it affects me every day. … It took everything I had to be strong in that moment," she said.
Raisman spoke about the daunting pressure she felt when she confronted Nassar in front of a prominent media presence. "I felt like when I was in court, there were cameras next to me," Raisman said. "I sort of pretended that there was nobody else in the room and I really focused on doing it for myself." The 23-year-old athlete said she did it for her younger self.
In February, Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in jail for sexually abusing women over the course of decades. Raisman was one of the survivors who confronted Nassar in court with scathing testimonies. He was also convicted in two separate cases, and between them all, he'll serve a minimum of 100 years.
While speaking in front of students, Raisman said that it was important to raise awareness about sexual abuse. "We need to openly talk about abuse and educate people. Educate children, educate adults, educate parents, educate anyone and everyone that is around children," she said.
Another point that the gold medalist brought up was healing. Raisman said that there is no straightforward path to feeling better but sexual abuse survivors can find solidarity and support among the people they trust. She advised the students that they should go to people they felt safe around. There is no linear "pathway" to getting better, Raisman said, but these little things can help victims of sexual abuse.
She also expressed frustration at some people siding with abusers as reports on sexual abuse surface. But Raisman said that people can find the support they need by reaching out to others. While discussing her own future in sports, Raisman said that she would be taking some much-needed time off and focusing on herself.
Raisman's appearance at the university arrives shortly after she gave an eviscerating testimony against Nassar in January. While addressing Nassar directly, Raisman said, "You are so sick I can’t even comprehend how angry I feel when I think of you. You lied to me and manipulated me to think that when you treated me, you were closing your eyes because you had been working hard when you were really touching me, an innocent child, to pleasure yourself." In her testimony, Raisman also lambasted the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics.
But she sharply focused on Nassar. Raisman said, "Imagine feeling like you have no power and no voice. Well, you know what, Larry? I have both power and voice and I am only beginning to just use them."
Refusing to remain silent about her pain, Raisman, then told Nassar that she knew he would be held accountable for his abuse. The gold medalist told the former doctor that she, along with other survivors of abuse, would ensure that he got "a life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors."