Two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney spoke publicly for the first time since becoming the first member of the gold medal-winning United States Olympic women's gymnastics team in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England to accuse disgraced former physician Larry Nassar of sexual assault when she did so on Twitter six months ago.
Here is that tweet.
Three of the other four members of that team followed suit, with Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas accusing the 54-year-old former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor of sexual assault the following month and Jordyn Wieber doing the same two months after Raisman and Douglas did.
Maroney, who stepped away from competing in elite gymnastics in February of 2016 prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, spoke during a luncheon for the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children at The Pierre hotel in New York, New York on Tuesday.
"I wasn't listened to, cared about or believed, and all of those things need to be weeded out of society, because that's where things went wrong.
“I was kind of looking for something that would give me enough courage to stand up. So many people were speaking up, I finally felt like that this is my moment. I know a lot of people don’t have moments like that. I feel very lucky. I have been able to compete at the Olympics and have people that are watching me, it almost feels like my duty to be able to give back to people.
"In a way, the fear turned to fearlessness when I knew it would help so many people. I was taught for so many years that I wasn’t supposed to say anything. I carried this secret around with me. A lot of people say it's empowering to speak, and it really was. I'm so happy to be here and speaking and lifting that weight off my shoulders because I don't think there can be anything more freeing than that."
"With everything that I went through, it was almost hard to believe that it happened to me, and I almost have to hear over and over and over again to start to accept it."
"We know Larry is a monster, and learning from everything that has come out, I should never have met him. USA Gymnastics, MSU and the USOC continued to look away to protect their reputations. All they cared about was money, medals and it didn't seem like anything else. It was my biggest dream to compete for my country. They demanded excellence from me, but they couldn't give it to us."
"Just because someone is in a powerful position doesn't mean that we should trust them. Just be careful. We can't have blind faith in these institutions anymore."
She also made the following remarks, according to The Washington Post.
“I at times question if my gymnastics career was really even worth it because of the stuff I’m dealing with now, because sometimes you’re just left in the dust. You have to pick up the pieces of your life. That has been the hardest part for me, but it’s always three steps forward, two steps back.”
“I definitely see a future where athletes are safe and succeeding. My team won gold medals in spite of USA Gymnastics, MSU, and the USOC. They don’t build champions, they break them. But we’re changing that.”
USA Gymnastics released the following statement after Maroney spoke publicly for the first time about the sexual assault she was forced to endure at the hands of Nassar starting when she was 13 years old. Here is what it said, according to USA Today.
"USA Gymnastics not only admires McKayla Maroney for her courage, but also for her commitment to speaking out against abuse. USA Gymnastics is saddened that her memories of gymnastics are tainted by the despicable crimes of Larry Nassar. Our athletes, like McKayla, are the heart and soul of USA Gymnastics, and every effort has been made to support our athletes’ development and provide the opportunities for them to achieve their dreams.
"The powerful voices of the athletes, like McKayla, who shared their experiences of abuse by Nassar impacted us all and will influence our decisions going forward. USA Gymnastics is committed to building a culture that empowers and supports our athletes and focuses on our highest priority, the safety and well-being of our athletes. We are doing everything possible to prevent abuse, and we hope everything we do going forward makes this very clear."
Many of USA Gymnastics' statements about this scandal, including this one, have come off as insincere, and this certainly makes sense. After all, they did attempt to pay for Maroney's silence in regard to Nassar's sexual assault by forcing her to enter a non-disclosure agreement.
When she revealed this disturbing detail this past December, they proceeded to lie about it.
During Nassar's second sentencing, which took place in an Ingham County, Michigan courtroom in January and resulted in him being sentenced to between 40 and 175 years in state prison on seven sexual assault charges, Maroney did have a victim impact statement read on her behalf in front of the court, which included Nassar himself and Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.
However, she personally had not spoken publicly about her abuse until now, which is a fact that makes her remarks at this luncheon on Tuesday all the more significant and a huge step forward for her on her path to recovery.
Before his sentencing hearing in January, Nassar was previously sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on three child pornography charges in December of 2017 roughly one year after he was arrested following a span of roughly two decades during which he sexually assaulted more than 260 people, many of whom female gymnasts, under the guise of medical treatment.
His third and final sentencing took place in February before he was taken to United States Penitentiary Tucson in Tucson, Arizona, a maximum-security federal prison that offers a sex offender program, to serve his 60-year federal prison sentence. During this sentencing, he was sentenced to between an additional 40 and 125 years on three more sexual assault charges.