Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Raisman Embraces Role as 'Fierce' Advocate for Abuse Victims

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Raisman Embraces Role as 'Fierce' Advocate for Abuse Victims

Article excerpt

The people come forward to Aly Raisman almost daily now. Random strangers. Men and women of various ages, races and backgrounds. They see the six-time Olympic medal-winning gymnast out in public and approach with a hug to give and a story to tell.

It was jarring at first, Raisman said. When she pitched her autobiography, "Fierce," to publishers last summer shortly after the 2016 Olympics, she intended to focus on her journey from tenacious prodigy to champion. And although all of that is in there, the part of her experience that has resonated the most since the book's release earlier this month is the one she wasn't sure she'd be able to share.

It's Chapter 22, titled "The Survivors." In it, Raisman outlines how she was abused by then-national team doctor Larry Nassar, how he "groomed" her by presenting himself as a friendly ear and how she feels he was empowered to continue over the course of years by those in charge at USA Gymnastics.

"I put in a ton of thought whether how I wanted to come forward about this," Raisman told the Associated Press. "What I realized at the end of the day is that I want change and I want people to understand what exactly abuse is. It's very complicated. It's very confusing. I didn't know that I was being abused because I was manipulated so horribly."

In the process, Raisman discovered that the abuse Nassar may have committed against other female athletes including allegations from Olympic teammates McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas was a very small part of a much larger problem that extends far beyond the actions of just one man. It's why she took those painful memories and put them on paper, to share with the world that, as she says over and over again: "It's not OK. It's never OK."

Raisman's new calling makes thinking about a return to competition in time for the 2020 Olympics seem trivial.

"This is the focus," Raisman said.

A focus that has turned her into an unexpected symbol of strength for others who share their experiences. …

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