Aly Raisman, three-time gold medal Olympic gymnast, has been a force at the forefront of conversations surrounding sexual assault survivors and child sexual abuse. Since she came forward about disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s abuse, she’s used her platform to have discussions about how abuse can be prevented and why it’s important to believe survivors.
Now, on NBC News’ TODAY on Tuesday, Raisman announced that she would be supporting a California bill to extend the statute of limitations for reporting childhood sexual abuse. After hearing about the survivors who came forward about University of Southern California gynaecologist George Tyndall, Raisman told TODAY that she saw similarities between that case and what had happened to her and hundreds of other gymnasts.
"Another doctor has so many survivors, and it's the same story of so many people knew about it and covered it up,'' Raisman told TODAY.
In Tyndall’s case, he was accused by more than 400 people of conducting inappropriate pelvic exams, photographing students’ genitals, and making sexual remarks about their bodies. He had complaints filed against him dating back to the 90s, although the university allowed him to continue treating patients until 2016. Survivors sued the university in a class-action lawsuit, and the case was settled with a $215 (£166.2) million payout. He was allowed to resign with a financial payout, and is under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department and a grand jury.
Many survivors of Tyndall's abuse have not been able to file claims due to the state's statute of limitations, but the new bill would change that. "I don't think there should be a statute of limitations when it comes to abuse,'' Raisman told TODAY. Raisman will join a group of Tyndall's survivors in Sacramento on Tuesday to lobby for the bill.
In addition to this latest effort, Raisman has been working with the organization Darkness to Light to educate adults about how to identify and stop abuse. Raisman told Refinery29 that the fact that Nassar was so respected by coaches and adults at USA Gymnastics, but gymnasts didn't want to be treated by him, should have been a red flag. "If people around us were more aware and paid attention, he would’ve been stopped a long time ago," she told Refinery29.
The disturbing parallels between Tyndall and Nassar's survivors show that sexual abuse is bigger than one person or one case — it's a systemic issue that affects everyone.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault and want to talk to someone, please call the Rape Crisis national freephone helpline on 0808 802 9999