Needham Olympian Aly Raisman addresses her abuser
Former Olympian Aly Raisman on Friday called the systematic abuse of athletes by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar the “worst epidemic of sexual abuse in the history of sports” and called on the organization to take more action in addressing the abuse and its survivors.
“Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing,” the Needham native said before staring directly at her abuser in a Michigan courtroom. “The tables have turned. . . . Larry, it’s time for you to listen to me.”
The comments were part of Raisman’s victim impact statement at Nassar’s sentencing hearing in Michigan, where he was found guilty of molesting girls at Michigan State University and his home. Raisman said she did not initially plan on testifying but decided to do so after hearing the statements of other victims.
The six-time Olympic medalist, who was team captain at the 2012 and 2016 games, is among more than 130 women who have made abuse claims against Nassar. She has taken on an increasingly high-profile role in criticizing Nassar, and the sport’s organizers, telling her story in a recent book and in television appearances.
Raisman, now 23, said Nassar had abused her since she was a little girl, including at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Nassar, who worked with USA Gymnastics for more than two decades, is facing a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years in prison. In a different criminal case in December, Nassar, 54, was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison. In that, case a federal judge said he should “never again have access to children.”
Dozens of women and girls have spoken of Nassar’s abuse. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina announced on Friday that at least 120 victims’ statements would be read, and more were being added every day.
Raisman’s fellow Olympians Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber, and Gabby Douglas have also said they were among Nassar’s victims as teens.
Nassar pleaded guilty to molestation charges in November. He has admitted to sexually assaulting female gymnasts and possessing child pornography.
Raisman pleaded with the judge to give him the “strongest possible sentence.”
“There is no map that shows you the pathway to healing. Realizing that you’re a survivor of sexual abuse is really hard to put into words,” Raisman said. “I cannot adequately capture the level of disgust I feel when I think about how this happened.’
Raisman called herself a survivor, not a victim.
“I’m also here to tell you, 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 those who enabled you to hurt many people,” she said. “You already know that you’re going to a place where you won’t be able to hurt anybody ever again, but I’m here to tell you that I will not rest until every last trace of your influence on this sport has been destroyed like the cancer it is.”
Raisman called for an investigation into the people in positions of power who enabled and protected Nassar, whom she called the architect of some of the policies and procedures used by USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee. She said USA Gymnastics was “rotting from the inside.’’
“If over these many years, just one adult listened and had the courage and character to act, this tragedy could have been avoided,” she said.
The adults instead protected Nassar, Raisman said. “This is like being violated all over again.”
USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for the sport, said Thursday it would cut ties with Karolyi Ranch, a renowned training facility that was one of the places where Nassar had molested the gymnasts.
But Raisman said the organization had “neglected to mention” that it had athletes training there the day that the statement was released. “Why must the manipulation continue?” she asked.
“To believe in gymnastics is to believe in change, but how are we supposed to believe in change when the organizations won’t even acknowledge the problem?” she asked.
She then specifically addressed a statement from USA Gymnastics CEO Kerry Perry, in which she said the victims’ statements have left an indelible effect on her daily job.
“This sounds great, Ms. Perry, but at this point, talk is cheap,” Raisman said, before calling for independent investigations into the abuse and adjustments to safety policies she said Nassar himself helped create.
“That was well-deserved,” the judge told Raisman after her statement. “You were never the problem, but you are so much the solution.”
Raisman had previously detailed Nassar’s abuse in her book “Fierce,” which was released in November. In the book, Raisman wrote she dreaded her time with him.
“‘Treatment sessions’ with him always made me feel tense and uncomfortable,” she wrote.
In a “60 Minutes” interview in November, Raisman pushed for a culture change at USA Gymnastics.
“What did USA Gymnastics do, and Larry Nassar do, to manipulate these girls so much that they are so afraid to speak up?” she said during the interview.
Nassar’s cases prompted Pat Miles, the former US attorney for Michigan who first charged Nassar, to issue a statement Friday, calling for an independent investigation into “who knew what when” about his crimes at Michigan State University and elsewhere.
“We must not let up in this fight until justice is served,” said Miles, now a Democratic candidate for attorney general in Michigan.