Six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman slammed USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee on Friday for enabling doctor Larry Nassar's sexually abusive behavior, which affected at least 120 young women, many of whom gave statements at his sentencing hearing this week.
"For this sport to go on we must demand real change," she said during the hearing's fourth day. "If we leave it up to these organizations, history is likely to repeat itself."
Nassar has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for molesting young athletes under the guise of medical treatment and has already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges.
You can read more about the trial here, and Raisman's full statement below:
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 survivors to make their statements. 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 so 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.
There is no map that shows you the pathway to healing. Realizing you are a survivor of sexual abuse is really hard to put into words. I cannot adequately capture the level of disgust I feel when I think about how this happened.
Larry, you abused the power and trust that I and so many others placed in you, and I am not sure I will ever come to terms with how horribly you manipulated and violated me.
You were the USA Gymnastics national team doctor, the Michigan State doctor, and the United States Olympic team doctor. You were trusted by so many and took took advantage of countless athletes and their families.
The effects of your actions are far-reaching. Abuse goes way beyond the moment, often haunting survivors for the rest of their lives, making it difficult to trust and impacting their relationships.
It is all the more devastating when such abuse comes at the hand of such a highly regarded doctor, since it leaves survivors questioning the organizations and even the medical profession itself, upon which so many rely.
I am here to face you Larry, so you can see I have regained my strength — that I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor.
I am no longer the little girl you met in Australia when you first began grooming and manipulating.
As for your letter yesterday, you are pathetic to think that anyone would have any sympathy for you. You think this is hard for you? Imagine how all of us feel.
Imagine how it feels to be an innocent teenager in a foreign country, hearing a knock on the door, and it's you. I don't want you to be there, but I don't have a choice. Treatments with you were mandatory. You took advantage of that. You even told on us, if we didn't want to be treated by you, knowing full well the troubles that would cause for us.
Lying on my stomach with you on my bed, insisting that your inappropriate touch would help to heal my pain. The reality is you caused me a great deal of physical, mental, and emotional pain.
You never healed me. You took advantage of our passions and our dreams. You made me uncomfortable, and I thought you were weird, but I felt guilty because you were a doctor, so I assumed I was the problem for thinking badly of you. I wouldn't allow myself to believe the problem was you.
From the time we were little, we were told to trust doctors. 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.
Imagine feeling 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.
All these brave women have power, and we will use our voices to make sure you get what you deserve, a life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors.
I am also here to tell you to your face, Larry, that you have not taken gymnastics away from me. I love this sport, and that love is stronger than the evil that resides in you and in those who enabled you to hurt many people.
You already know you're going away to a place where you won't be able to hurt anybody ever again, but I am here to tell you until every last trace of your influence on this sport has been destroyed, like the cancer it is.
Your abuse started 30 years ago, but that's just the first reported incident we know of. If over these many years, if just one adult listened and had the courage and character to act, this tragedy could have been avoided.
I and so many others would have never, ever met you.
Larry, you should have been locked up a long, long time ago. The fact is, we have no idea how many people you victimized, or what was done, or not done, to allow you to keep doing it, and to get away with it for so long.
Over those thirty years, adult after adult, many in positions of authority, protected you, telling each survivor it was okay, that you weren't abusing them. In fact, many adults had you convince the survivors that they were being dramatic or had been mistaken.
This is like being violated all over again. How do you sleep at night? You were decorated by both USA Gymnastics and the USOC both of which put you on advisory boards and committees to come up with policies to protect athletes from this kind of abuse. You were the person they had "take the lead of athlete care."
You were the person they say "provided the foundation for our medical system."
I cringe to think that your influence remains in the policies that are supposed to keep athletes safe, that these organizations have for years claimed "state of the art."
To believe in the future of gymnastics is to believe in change, but how are we to believe in change when these organizations aren't even willing to acknowledge the problem?
It's easy to put out statements talking about how athlete care is the highest priority, but they've been saying that for years, and all the while this nightmare was happening.
False assurances from organizations are dangerous, especially when people want so badly to believe them. They make it easy to look away from the problem and enable bad things to be able to happen. Even now, after all that has happened, USA Gymnastics has the nerve to say the very same things it has said all along.
Can't you see how disrespectful that is? Can't you see how much that hurts?
A few days ago, USA Gymnastics put out a statement attributed to its president and CEO, Kerry Perry, who said she came here to listen to the courageous women and said, "their powerful voices leave an indelible impact on me and will impact my decisions every day."
This sounds great, Ms. Perry, but at this point: Talk is cheap. You left midway through the day and no one has heard from you or the board.
Kerry, I have never met you, and I know you weren't around for most of this. But you accepted the position as president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, and I assume by now you are aware of the weighty responsibility you've taken on.
Unfortunately, you've taken on an organization that I feel is rotting from the inside, and you will be judged by how you deal with it.
A word of advice: Continuing to empty statements of empty promises, thinking that will pacify us, will no longer work.
Yesterday, USA Gymnastics announced it's terminating its lease at the ranch where so many of us were abused. I'm glad it is no longer a national training site, but USA Gymnastics neglected to mention that they had athletes training there the day they released the statement.
USA Gymnastics: Where is the honesty? Where is the transparency? Why must the manipulation continue?
Neither USA Gymnastics nor the USOC has reached out to me to express sympathy or even offer support — not even to ask, 'How did this happen? What can we do to help?' Why have I and the others not heard anything from USA Gymnastics? Why has the US Olympic committee been silent? Why isn't the USOC here right now?
Larry was the Olympic doctor and he molested me at the 2012 Olympic Games. They say now they applaud those who have spoken out, but it's easy to say that now. When the brave women started speaking out back then, more than a year after the USOC says they knew about Nassar, they were dismissed.
At the 2016 Olympic Games, the president of the USOC said that the USOC would not conduct an investigation. It even defended USA Gymnastics as one of the leaders in developing policies to protect athletes.
That's the response a courageous woman gets when she speaks out? And when others joined those athletes and began speaking out with more stories of abuse, were they acknowledged? No. It is like being abused all over again.
I have represented the United States of America in two Olympics and have done so successfully. And both USA Gymnastics and the US 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 happened and why it 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.
This is the only way to learn from these mistakes and make gymnastics a safer sport If ever there was a need to fully understand a problem it is this one right now. To accept that problem is limited to just what we know now is irresponsible, delusional even. Each new day seems to bring a new survivor. We have no idea how much damage you caused, Larry, and we have no idea how deep these stories go.
Now is the time to acknowledge that the very person who sits before us now — who perpetrated the worst epidemic of sexual abuse in the history of sports, who is going to be locked up for a long, long time — this monster was also the architect of policies and procedures that are supposed to protect athletes from sexual abuse for both USA Gymnastics and the USOC.
If we are to believe in change, we must first understand the problem and everything that contributed to it. Now is not the time for false reassurances. We need an independent investigation of exactly what happened, what went wrong, and what can be avoided for the future. Only then can we know what changes are needed. Only then can we know what changes are real.
Your honor, I ask you to give Larry the strongest possible sentence, which his actions deserve. For, by doing so, you will send a message to him and to other abusers that they cannot get away with their horrible crimes. They will be exposed for the evil they are, and they will be punished to the maximum extent of the law.
Let this sentence strike fear in anyone who thinks it is okay to hurt another person.
Abusers, your time is up.
The survivors are here, standing tall, and we are not going anywhere.
And please, your honor, stress the need to investigate how this happened, so that we can hold accountable those who empowered and enabled Larry Nassar, so we can repair, and once again believe in this beautiful sport.
My dream is that one day, everyone will know what the words, "Me too," signify, but they will be educated and able to protect themselves from predators like Larry, so they will never have to say the words, "Me too."
Cora Lewis is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Lewis reports on labor.
Contact Cora Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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