In a personal essay published Monday morning, Seattle Storm forward and former Connecticut star Breanna Stewart revealed she was sexually abused as a child.
“Part of why I waited so long to tell so many people — even those very close to me — is because I don’t want to be defined by this any more than I want to be only defined by how well I play basketball,” Stewart wrote for The Players Tribune. “Both things are a part of me — they make me who I am. We are all a little more complicated than we might seem.”
Stewart, who led the Huskies to four straight national championships from 2012-16, wrote that penning the essay is “one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done and will ever do.” But she explained that reading McKayla Maroney’s account recently helped her feel “less alone.” Maroney is a gold-medal winning gymnast who detailed how she was sexually abused by a doctor who worked for USA Gymnastics.
Stewart also wrote that she kept coming back to something her father has said to her repeatedly: “It’s not a dirty little secret. When you’re comfortable with it, and when you’re comfortable being open about it, you could save someone’s life.”
“That’s why I’m writing this. This is bigger than me,” she wrote.
Stewart, who earned a gold medal with Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, wrote that the abuse first occurred when she was 9 years old and continued over the next two years before she told her mother in the middle of the night. Her parents promptly called the police, and Stewart went to the police station to give a statement, which she wrote she doesn’t remember. The perpetrator was then arrested and confessed “everything.”
“I don’t remember what I felt. Another blank space,” Stewart wrote.
But Stewart still went to basketball practice later that night. She wanted to.
“I went to my dad and told him that I still wanted to go,” she wrote. “He couldn’t believe it. With all I’d been through, the only thing I wanted to do was go play basketball.”
Stewart wrote that she is angry about what happened and that she won’t get the time back. She wrote that memories of what happened still strike her from time to time. But she wrote that she is not ashamed.
“I’m still working through what comes next now that I have told my story,” Stewart wrote. “In sharing, I know that no matter how uncomfortable I typically am making things about myself, as a public survivor, I now assume a certain responsibility. So I’ll start by saying this: If you are being abused, tell somebody. If that person doesn’t believe you, tell somebody else. A parent, a family member, a teacher, a coach, a friend’s parent. Help is there.”
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