As reported earlier this week, Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman is the latest gymnast to accuse former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. Nassar, who is currently in prison on charges related to possession of child pornography, has been accused by over 140 gymnasts of sexual abuse under the guise of "medical treatment."
During a 60 Minutes interview that aired on Sunday, Raisman raised an incredibly important point about childhood victims of sexual abuse: They often don't recognize the perpetrator's behavior as abuse if it's someone they know and trust.
Raisman, who says the abuse began when she was 15, told 60 Minutes that she didn't realize Nassar's behavior even was abuse until she was interviewed by a USA Gymnastics investigator in 2015.
"I was just really innocent. I didn’t really know. You don’t think that of someone, so I trusted him," Raisman said. She also explained how Nassar used "grooming" techniques, a common strategy that perpetrators use to manipulate their victims.
"He would always bring me, you know, desserts or gifts. He would buy me little things. So I really thought he was a nice person. I really thought he was looking out for me," Raisman explained — and that's part of why she feels compelled to speak out. "I want people to know that just because someone is nice to you, and just because everyone is saying they are the best person, it does not make it OK for them to ever make you uncomfortable, ever," she continued.
Raisman was also candid about how she's coping in the aftermath. She says that although she realized in 2015 that she had been abused, it wasn't easy to admit to herself. "I was in denial," she recalls, adding that it was difficult to believe and acknowledge the truth. This is true of sexual abuse victims of all ages because, after all, it's painful to accept that you're a victim.
"I’m still trying to put the pieces together today," Raisman said. "It impacts you for the rest of your life."
Although she hopes to return the Olympics in 2020, Raisman said that her public criticism of USA Gymnastics' handling of the allegations may hurt her chances of making the team. She recalled that, at a post-Rio event, high-up members of USA Gymnastics didn't come to her team's table and they behaved as though they wanted nothing to do with her.
But despite her Olympic aspirations, Raisman knows exactly where her priorities lie. Speaking out and working to create a culture that's safer for girls is far more important to her than any gold medal, she told 60 Minutes.
Raisman has been an incredible role model for children and adults thanks to her work ethic, leadership, and unwavering support of her teammates. Her dedication to preventing future sexual abuse in gymnastics, even though it may hurt her future in the sport, is yet another reason to admire her.
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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