Since revealing that she was sexually assaulted by disgraced former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, it has not exactly been an easy road for 23-year-old Needham, Massachusetts native Aly Raisman.
Raisman, who was the team captain for USA Gymnastics in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, revealed this past November that Nassar had sexually assaulted her starting in 2010 under the guise of medical treatment.
Raisman is more than one of 260 people, most of whom are women and girls, who have accused Nassar of sexual assaulting them over the course of roughly two decades before he was finally arrested in November of 2016.
Nassar, 54, is set to spend the rest of his life in prison now, as he was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on three child pornography charges this past December, 40 to 175 years in state prison on seven sexual assault charges in January, and an additional 40 to 125 years in state prison on three more sexual assault charges last month.
When Raisman publicly revealed that she was sexually assaulted back in November, her claims were met with criticism almost immediately. People, mostly men, targeted her as a result of the fact that she had taken part in photo shoots for ESPN The Body Issue in 2015 and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 2017.
Somehow, in their minds, Raisman taking part in these photo shoots makes Nassar's actions justifiable and she has no one to blame for his actions but herself -- somehow. Don't ask me how.
Whether or not you agree with her taking part in the photo shoots themselves and whether or not that you believe that is ethical is a whole other topic and has nothing to do with the fact -- the fact -- that attempting to justify Nassar's actions is beyond repulsive.
Raisman ended up being one of 169 people who delivered a victim impact statement during Nassar's sentencing in Ingham County, Michigan this past January during which he was sentenced to between 40 and 175 years in state prison. She delivered this statement despite not even initially planning to attend the hearing.
Her statement drew national attention almost immediately because of just how powerful and inspirational it was. Perhaps most notably in her statement, she ripped the USOC and USA Gymnastics for failing to act on Nassar's behavior despite the fact that they were warned about it time and time again.
She continuously called for change throughout that statement, which you can watch below in its entirety.
As a result of that statement, Raisman became the face of change and a role model to many people, and she has continued to use her platform to call for changes to these organizations to ensure that nothing along the lines of what happened with Larry Nassar happens ever again.
However, just a few weeks later, she was targeted again for taking part in photo shoots for the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and the In Her Own Words photo shoots that went along with it, in which she posed nude with several words written on her body.
Again, whether or not you agree with her taking part in these photo shoots themselves is a whole other topic that has absolutely no effect on the fact that attempting to justify Nassar's actions is utterly loathsome.
You didn't hear people complaining when any of the numerous male athletes such as Prince Fielder, Bryce Harper, Rob Gronkowski, Larry Fitzgerald, John Wall and Dwyane Wade also appeared in ESPN The Body Issue, did you? Short answer, no, you didn't.
There certainly may have been some scattered criticism directed at those athletes, but all of that criticism combined, if it even existed, pales in comparison to the criticism and the victim shaming that Raisman has received for taking part in her photo shoots.
Just look at some of the comments she has received on Facebook.
"You are loathsome"
"She is disgusting"
"Don’t forget to pack your thong leotards you disgraceful pig"
"Just another dumb s***."
"Lmao what a stupid t***waffle"
"Didn’t this b**** just accuse someone of sexual harassment"
"Ali IS a joke"
"Survivor my a**. I don’t remember seeing her name in a plane crash, build collapse or a multi story building fire. She put up with the touchy feely so she could make the team and get her gold medal and now she cries foul. It be little’s actual people that survived a real disaster that had their lives to gain, not some piece of s*** medal"
"And yet she claims rape or violated. Many of them actually do secret enjoy it and wakes up a wild side"
"W***** are a joke!"
"This woman is a fool."
"Because she has no brain…"
"Can’t really blame Nassar now, can ya?"
"W***** and Hypocrites."
"What comes to mind first is she must be somewhat of a publicity w****. One can’t help but infer that all the time she spent whining to the various news outlets via interviews was nothing but a promotional tour for this SI spread. Or she may be in need of some serious psychiatric help."
"W**** in every way possible."
"Bulls*** you w***** just want attention"
Why is this the case? To be brutally honest, it's not that hard to figure out.
Despite the fact that the people doing the criticizing will tell you they are doing so because of the photo shoots themselves, it's not about the photo shoots themselves. If it actually was about the photo shoots themselves, there would have been an outrage when athletes such as those listed above took part in them, but there wasn't.
Let's just say that it's about who is in the images and how certain people react to the images, and that is what leads them to make such repulsive remarks toward some athletes but not others -- and let's keep it at that. It's clearly not about the photo shoots themselves.
Now, as opposed to criticizing her for a swimsuit, the same people are criticizing her over a lawsuit. Raisman recently filed a lawsuit against the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, two of Nassar's main enablers, and she named Nassar as a co-defendant in the lawsuit.
Here is what she had to say about this lawsuit in a statement, according to ESPN.
"I refuse to wait any longer for these organizations to do the right thing. It is my hope that the legal process will hold them accountable and enable the change that is so desperately needed."
In regard to the USOC and USA Gymnastics, she also added the following remarks, according to ESPN.
"It has become painfully clear that these organizations have no intention of properly addressing this problem. After all this time, they remain unwilling to conduct a full investigation, and without a solid understanding of how this happened, it is delusional to think sufficient changes can be implemented."
As a result, she has come under fire from people saying that it was never about anything other than money. Others have chimed in with comments similar to those listed above, ultimately making it seem like her allegations are false and it was all a publicity stunt.
Then there are those who are asking why she is filing a lawsuit now after "all of this time" and questioning the validity of her claims since they wonder why she did not "come forward sooner".
Without getting into too much detail, the ignorance shown by these victim shamers is astounding.
Here is what Raisman had to say in her article in The Players' Tribune back at the beginning of this past December.
"After adjusting the dosages of some of the medication, I had a bad reaction and lost consciousness. I woke up to my terrified mom calling 911. I was loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital, where the doctors realized the issue was a side effect from one of the medications. My doctor has recommended that I try other medications to help me cope, but the trauma of what happened with those medications put me over the edge. It just added to the list of things I was anxious and stressed about."
Raisman added the following in an interview with CNN.
"Some days, I feel good and I'll do a workout. Other days, I'll wake up and I just -- I can't even get a 10-minute walk, and that's crazy for me to say being an Olympic athlete -- but I just think people need to understand the stress and trauma. It is so exhausting."
But sure, go ahead and tell me more about how her allegations are fake and she's only doing it for the money. I'll wait.
No, I won't wait, because I would literally be waiting forever, so let's move on.
What about the fact that she has been constantly pushing for an independent investigation into these institutions? It's not like she isn't doing anything about the issue. Truth be told, she has become the ultimate advocate for accountability since revealing her assault nearly four months ago.
Then there are those who criticized her for turning down the opportunity to be a part of the USOC's investigation after she called them out for "not caring" time and time again. While this may seem like a reasonable complaint on the surface level, these people fail to see the bigger picture.
After declining this offer, Raisman had this to say about why she did so, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“For 31 months, I heard nothing. I find it hard to believe after all this time that the USOC is genuinely concerned about anything other than the scrutiny it’s now facing.”
This does, in fact, make a lot of sense. Why should she trust the USOC to conduct their own investigation, especially seeing as how USA Gymnastics threatened her to keep quiet about Nassar's assault by telling her that if she and her mother, Lynn, continued to reach out, they risked jeopardizing the investigation?
When USA Gymnastics threatened her, the problem was that absolutely nothing was actually being take care of at the time despite the fact that Raisman and her mother were told otherwise, so the fact that she believes the USOC is only pretending to care at this point is more than justifiable, as is the fact that she does not want to take part in their investigation. This leads me to my next point.
Raisman didn't just reveal her abuse like these victim shamers are claiming she did. She initially revealed these claims in the summer of 2015 to a private investigator hired by USA Gymnastics. This was right before the time when she was told to keep quiet.
Nassar was only arrested in November of 2016 after Rachael Denhollander became the first woman to publicly accuse him of sexual assault in an article in The Indianapolis Star in September earlier that year.
Up until that point, no one had taken any of Nassar's accusers seriously. In fact, a better word to describe his accusers would be "ignored", because truth be told, that's exactly what they were when they revealed their stories of assault for far too long.
The first accusations against Nassar were made in 1997 -- 1997!! -- when Larissa Boyce reported being sexually assaulted by him to Michigan State University gymnastics coach Kathie Klages.
When Boyce told Klages about the assault in 1997, Klages threatened her with "serious consequences" if she were to file a complaint. In fact, in February of 2017 before she resigned, Klages actually had her gymnasts at Michigan State sign a sympathy card for Nassar -- after he was arrested!
It took nearly two decades for these claims to finally be taken seriously and for someone to finally step up and do something to stop Nassar despite the fact that numerous officials were alerted about his behavior over these two decades.
It took nearly two decades for Nassar to finally not be cleared of all wrongdoing after never receiving as much as a slap on the wrist from 1997 up until his arrest in 2016 despite all of the warning signs and all of the accusations made against him.
Why? Because until 2016, the claims of the women and girls that Nassar sexually assaulted were ignored.
Yet somehow Raisman's victim shamers think that she is "only in it for the money" and if she truly isn't, "she should have spoken up sooner". Of course, these people ignore or simply do not realize that she did actually speak up long before the last few months, and she was still ignored for over a year. So again, give me a break.
If these people are not targeting and blaming Raisman for her own sexual assault as a result of the fact that she took part in photo shoots for ESPN The Body Issue and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, they're targeting her because she is justifiably filing a lawsuit against the institutions that enabled Nassar's predatory behavior for roughly two decades, as they claim it's all about the money.Published 04 Mar 2018, 11:18 IST