140 victims of former gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar made history last night after being honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs. Their courage to use their voices and speak up about such a vulnerable subject as sexual assault was commended as Jennifer Garner presented the award.
The “sister survivors” were met with an emotional standing ovation as they filed on stage.
Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman and former athletes Sarah Klein and Tiffany Thomas Lopez then stepped forward to share a piece of their stories with the audience.
“It is a privilege to stand up here with my sister survivors as we represent hundreds more who are not with us tonight,” Klein said in opening. “Make no mistake, we are here on this stage to present an image for the world to see, a portrait of survival, a new vision of courage. The abuse of Larry Nassar began 30 years ago with me. For 30 years, people at the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, and Michigan State University all placed money and medals above the safety of child athletes.”
“Speaking up and speaking out is not easy. Telling our stories of abuse over and over and over again, in graphic detail, is not easy,” she added. “We’re sacrificing privacy and being judged and scrutinized, and it is painful, but it is time.”
After acknowledging the many losses they had experienced over the last several decades, Lopez shared, “Tonight, we stand here and it feels like we’re finally winning.”
“There are a lot of conversations in our society that we tiptoe around as if they’re something to avoid,” she said. “Sexual abuse claims victims come in every race, showing no discrimination.”
Raisman’s speech started with a string of dates: “1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.”
“These were the years we spoke up about Larry Nassar’s abuse,” she stated. “All those years, we were told, ‘You are wrong. You misunderstood. He’s a doctor. It’s ok. Don’t worry. We’ve got it covered.'”
Raisman said the attempts to keep them silent were all for the sake of “money medals, and reputation.”
“The ripple effect of our actions, or inactions, can be enormous, spanning generations,” the gymnast continued. “Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this nightmare is that it could have been avoided. Whether you act or do nothing, you are shaping the world that we live in. Impacting others. All we needed was one adult to have the integrity to stand between us and Larry Nassar.”
The victims made a point to acknowledge and commend Judge Rosemarie Aquilina for being that first adult to truly hear them and ensure justice was served by putting Nassar behind bars.
“Thank you, Judge Aquilina, for honoring our voices,” said Raisman. “For too long, we were ignored, and you helped us to rediscover the power we each possess. You may never meet the hundreds of children you saved, but know they exist.”
In closing, Raisman shared one last riveting takeaway statement: “We may suffer alone, but we survive together.”
Watch their powerful statements in full below:
“To all the survivors out there, don’t let anyone rewrite your story. Your truth does matter. You matter. And you are not alone.”
— ESPYS (@ESPYS) July 19, 2018
If you or anyone you know has been sexually abused, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) today.