Stewart writes that a man who she identifies as a "construction worker" molested her repeatedly for two years. During that time, she says that basketball became "a sort of safe space."
Although coming forward is painful, Stewart writes that by doing so she hopes to encourage others to do the same and seek help. "If you are being abused, tell somebody. If that person doesn’t believe you, tell somebody else," Stewart writes. "A parent, a family member, a teacher, a coach, a friend’s parent. Help is there."
The Olympian is candid about the fact that she still struggles with the aftermath of the abuse. "It’s something I’ve tried to tuck away as far back on the shelf as I could. But that only works to an extent. I’ve cried. I cry most after I tell someone who’s important to me. Talking about what I went through, explaining all of it — it guts me. I’m forced to relive it," she explains. "That’s when it hits that what happened is real. It wasn’t just an awful nightmare. It wasn’t some other life I lived at another time."
Stewart also describes the aspects of the trauma that she doesn't remember as "black holes in my brain." She writes that she's blocked out some memories and that, although she knows her parents contacted the police and she gave a statement, she can't recall what she said. It's common for victims of sexual abuse and trauma to suppress memories, so what Stewart describes will likely resonate with many readers who have suffered similar traumas.
Stewart adds that she's speaking out because "this is bigger than me" and she was inspired when another Olympian, gymnast McKayla Maroney, shared her own #MeToo story on social media earlier this month.
One of the reasons Stewart was hesitant to come forward is because she doesn't want to be defined by the abuse: "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," she writes. "Both things are a part of me — they make me who I am. We are all a little more complicated than we might seem."
As Stewart says, we're all complicated and sexual abuse doesn't define us. The fact that more and more people are speaking out and sharing their stories proves that we're not alone. We can speak up without the risk of our identity being diminished to "victim" for the rest of our lives.
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).