Over 125 innocent lives were taken advantage of in a sport that is supposed to empower young women with perseverance, determination and strength.
And maybe it did. But that determination in the gym became determination to put on a smiling face as though nothing were wrong. That perseverance became a way to shove away the “discomfort” and keep pursuing their dreams, no matter the cost. And that strength became an enabler to hold an enormous amount of pain inside.
Gymnastics is my sport. It was my life for 19 years and I was one of those girls who spent 30 hour weeks in the gym, had constant blisters on my wrists, and ankles wrapped in tape. But I loved it, because it provided an incredible community of my best friends, coaches who believed in me and it was a sport that challenged me to defy gravity in ways others couldn’t even dream of.
All of the girls at the National Training Camps - I wanted to be them. I trained with them and hoped to one day attend the Karolyi Camps. I was almost there and I’m forced to realize how easily I could have been one of these horrifying stories that have been infiltrating the news.
As I've been following the continued allegations against Larry Nassar, It stuns and angers me to learn about what was going on with my own teammates behind closed doors. And I wonder how I would have dealt with it if they would have told me at the time. I don’t think I would have known what to say. I don’t know how I would have processed that information. I was only a child.
But then, so were they.
Gymnastics is one of those sports where you are never supposed to show you are hurting. You flaunt around in a leotard, throw glitter into your hair and top it off with a pretty pink scrunchie. You’re taught to smile your biggest smile no matter how many times you fall. Little girl innocence encapsulated in picture perfect happiness.
It’s why so many gymnasts are self-proclaimed perfectionists. And this culture, of tying everything up in a neat little bow, of being afraid to acknowledge pain for fear of being blown off or blamed, has conditioned so many to not speak up. It is a form of emotional abuse that has silenced gymnasts for far too long.
Now don’t get me wrong, gymnastics gave me so many opportunities and experiences I would never have had otherwise. It taught me skills I will use for the rest of my life. There are coaches that HAVE empowered me and taught me to speak up for myself but there is no denying that there was a lot of sacrifice and pain to get to where I am today.
What Larry Nassar did to these girls, these beautiful friends of mine under the guise of medical professionalism, was evil, disgusting, horrendous, and unthinkable. It breaks my heart that they had to endure something so traumatic to please an abhorrent desire. It breaks my heart that it is only years later that their voices are finally being heard by USA Gymnastics.
There is a verse in the Bible that says:
For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light." (Luke 8:17, NIV)
The truth has come out. And to you, Larry Nassar, while nobody else knew what you were doing, or turned a blind eye, God saw. You couldn't hide from him.
Abuse in any form is never okay, and while I was not abused by Larry Nassar, I empathize with the many brave women who were, though I know I will never understand the incredible pain and hurt they have experienced and are continuing to experience by bringing their stories into the light.
So many of them have opened up about subsequent bouts of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts, that followed them for many years later, even after they were no longer being abused. I want them, and anyone who relates, that the following years of struggle are not, and were not your fault either. Just as the abuse wasn't your fault. You did nothing to deserve that and it has taken an incredible amount of strength to keep moving forward with your lives. I commend you.
Most importantly, God doesn’t fault you either.
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18, NIV)
He sees you. He hears you. And while I don’t know why he allowed these terrible things to take place for so long, I do know that he works everything out for good for those who love him.
I pray that God will heal the hearts of those who were forced to endure the objectification of their innocence. I pray for Larry Nassar; that he will be broken before God at the immense pain that he has caused not just for the victims, but the entire gymnastics community. And that he will seek forgiveness, from God and from those whose lives will never be the same.
If you have experienced abuse of any kind. Don’t keep it in the darkness. Bring it to the light, because only then can you begin to heal. When you open yourself up in vulnerability, it gives others the courage to open up too.
This all started with a few brave young women, who then gave over 100 more the courage to come forward and say #metoo. There is reconciliation in community and today I stand with my former teammates and gymnasts and say #neveragain.
Never again will this be allowed to happen on such a magnitudinous level, under the supervision of trusted administration. Never again will so many warning signs and testimonies be ignored. Never again will the most watched sport in the Olympics hide one of the biggest scandals of our time. Never again.