Last week, Aly Raisman, who recently spoke out about her experience being sexually abused by U.S.A. gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, posted a heartfelt statement to Twitter slamming victim-shaming, addressing the all-too-common "what were you wearing?" question. (Spoiler alert: never ask a victim this question.)
Many people were disappointed when her teammate Gabby Douglas responded with a now-deleted tweet that read: "It is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy...Dressing in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd."
Their teammate, Simone Biles, quickly called out Douglas and the Olympic gold medalist immediately apologized.
Now, Douglas has issued a lengthier apology and statement about her tweet — and it includes the heartbreaking allegation that she, too, was sexually abused by Nassar.
Douglas began by reiterating her apology and explained that she's aware many young girls view her as a role model and that's something she takes seriously.
"I didn't view my comments as victim shaming because I know that no matter what you wear, it NEVER gives anyone the right to harass or abuse you. It would be like saying that because the leotards we wore, it was our fault that we were abused by Larry Nassar," Douglas wrote. "I didn't publicly share my experiences as well as many other things because for years we were conditioned to stay silent and honestly some things were extremely painful. I wholeheartedly support my teammates for coming forward with what happened to them."
"I understand that many of you didn't know what I was dealing with, but it is important to me that you at least know this. I do not advocate victim shaming/blaming in any way, shape or form!" she continued.
It's worth noting that many survivors of sexual abuse can harbor internalized feelings of guilt and self-blame, especially during the early stages of their recovery. It can take survivors of all ages years to even acknowledge to themselves that they've been sexually abused, as Raisman expressed on 60 Minutes.
Today's statement makes Douglas the third member of the 2012 London Olympic "Fierce Five" team to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse. In October, McKayla Maroney shared her story on Twitter, accompanied by the #MeToo hashtag, and Aly Raisman came forward in early November.
Rather than harping on Douglas' initial tweet, let's focus on supporting these young women as they share their experiences. Recovering from sexual abuse is a complicated, messy, and deeply painful process and we're all bound to make mistakes along the way. For these gymnasts, it's also playing out in public — and that adds a tremendous amount of pressure.
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).