It seems you can't go anywhere without hearing about new sexual assault or harassment allegations. Nearly every day there's a different story about sexual predators in Hollywood: Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Bill Cosby, Bill O'Reilly, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Ed Westwick – the list continues. Then, there are leaders like Roy Moore and President Donald Trump, who have both been accused of gross misconduct.
But these predators aren't just limited to the entertainment industry or Capitol Hill. Some of these men are in our home towns. They're teachers, businessmen, and, in swimmer Diana Nyad's case, a once-trusted coach.
In a devastating essay written for The New York Times, Nyad broke her silence and detailed how her swim coach, the man she called "the father I always yearned for," sexually assaulted her in 1964, when she was just 14.
Nyad, who said she had known this man for four years at the time, thought nothing of it when she decided to take a nap at his house one afternoon "in between the afternoon preliminaries and the night finals." And why would she be scared when she said that "this was normal" and "part of the swim team’s daily milieu?" But what happened was far from "normal," and it would forever change her life.
Nyad recalled that she was asleep when he came into the room, got on top of her, and "yanked" off her suit.
"He grabbed and drooled onto my breasts. He hyperventilated and moaned," she wrote. "I didn't breathe for perhaps two full minutes, my body locked in an impenetrable flex. My arms trembled, pinned to my sides. He pleaded with me to open my legs, but they were pressed hard together. If breath gives us force, that day I could feel the strength in my body from the polar opposite — from not breathing. He ejaculated on my stomach, my athletic torso I was so proud of now suddenly violated with this strange and foul stuff."
Later, he'd assault her again.
Though she has since been an outspoken advocate for survivors and even assisted in getting her coach fired, his actions, what he took from her, will forever haunt her.
"I live my life with great gusto...I walk down the street as though I own it. All the while, the trauma has lodged in an obscure corner of my soul," she wrote. "I refuse to believe it's a lifelong imprint, yet, with age 70 in clear view, I admit to wondering whether I will ever entirely heal that young girl who was pinned down."
Shen ended her essay with a powerful call to action: "Tell your story. Let us never again be silenced."
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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