Aly Raisman: "Child Sexual Abuse Isn't A Kid Problem, It's An Adult Problem"

Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic.
On Monday, Aly Raisman wrote a powerful op-ed for the Boston Globe about child sexual abuse, specifically, how the stigma associated with it can impact children from a young age. Raisman, a three-time gold medal Olympic gymnast, was one of the most outspoken survivors to come forward about Larry Nassar's abuse, and has become an advocate for sexual assault survivors in addition to a role model for young athletes.
It has been almost a year since Raisman first publicly spoke up about Nassar's abuse; in November of 2017, she told 60 Minutes that Nassar abused her beginning when she was 15 years old. While Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison in January, Raisman wrote that she is "still hurting from the sexual abuse I suffered as a young athlete." Now, Raisman said that listening to aspiring gymnasts talk about their dreams makes her feel conflicted. "I feel the desire to be positive and encourage them to pursue their dreams, but also the responsibility to warn them of the dangers and uncertainties they may confront along the way," she wrote.
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Additionally, Raisman detailed how difficult it is to address child sexual abuse, and said that often survivors are the ones who face guilt and shame for coming forward. "Prevention is stigmatized, disclosure is stigmatized, reporting is stigmatized, prosecuting is stigmatized, talking publicly is stigmatized," she wrote. "No wonder it’s a silent epidemic. Why does society make survivors feel so afraid to share our stories?"
In the wake of Nassar's trial, Raisman recognized that there was a need for education aimed at adults who work closely in youth sports. So, she began working with the organization Darkness to Light in order to educate adults how to recognize, prevent, and react responsibly to child abuse, she wrote. According to the National Association of Adult Survivors of Sexual Child Abuse, 90% of abused children are abused by someone they know, love, and trust — like a coach, parent, or teacher. "I know firsthand, this can be difficult to comprehend," Raisman wrote. "Perpetrators know this and count on our silence. Child sexual abuse isn’t a kid problem, it’s an adult problem."
Raisman started a campaign called, #FlipTheSwitch, which provides a two-hour educational course for adults involved in youth sports or anyone else who wants to take it. To date over 2,500 adults have completed the course, but Raisman says she's just getting started. "Prevention is a collective journey and requires our ongoing commitment to encourage individuals and organizations to engage in this epidemic," she wrote.
This op-ed was published at a crucial time. Raisman has been very critical of USA Gymnastics', the governing body for the sport, leadership and inaction. Last Friday, it was announced that Mary Bono would serve as the interim president for USA Gymnastics, which angered Raisman and other gymnasts. Bono previously served on the law firm that helped to cover up Nassar's crimes in 2013. In response to the news, Raisman tweeted: "Clearly this is not a 'new' USAG. Same corrupt decisions. Perhaps it’s because true accountability is less likely if authority is placed in the hands of someone similarly motivated to avoid it..."
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