When American gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman testified before Congress on Wednesday, they painted a picture of a system they failed them when they reported allegations of sexual abuse against Larry Nassar , a former doctor for the US gymnastics team.
The gymnasts also shared a vivid picture of what it’s like to recover emotionally from sexual abuse and described how failures in the system have delayed their continued recovery.
“Personally, I don’t think people realize how experiencing some type of abuse isn’t something you go through just in the moment,” said Raisman, who testified against Nassar shortly before. his sentence in 2018 to 175 years in prison. for sexually assaulting hundreds of girls and women. “It continues with them, sometimes for the rest of their lives.”
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the FBI’s handling of Nassar’s allegations, Raisman continued, “For example, being here today is taking all I’ve got. here. I don’t think people realize how much this affects us. “
Maroney, who testified on Wednesday that the FBI delayed documenting his allegations against Nassar and then made false statements, apologized to senators at one point for not answering more questions, saying that she was exhausted after sharing her experience with them.
When seven-time Olympic medalist Biles began her testimony, she told senators: “To be perfectly honest, I can’t imagine a place where I would be less comfortable right now than sitting here in front of you. to share these comments.
“As a recent competitor to the Tokyo Games who survived this horror, I can assure you that the impacts of this man’s abuse are not over or never forgotten,” Biles said. “The announcement in the spring of 2020 that the Tokyo Games were to be postponed for a year meant that I would go to the gym, to practice, to therapy, living everyday amid the reminders of this story for another 365 days. “
“As I have said in the past, one thing that has helped me push each day was the goal of not letting this crisis be ignored. I worked incredibly hard to make sure my presence could maintain a link between chess and competition at Tokyo 2020, ”she continued. “It has proven to be an exceptionally difficult burden for me to carry, especially when I have to travel to Tokyo without the support of any of my family.”
Biles has also previously spoken of suffering from depression and having to take anxiety medication as a result of Nassar’s abuse.
Raisman has said in the past that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of sexual abuse. In her testimony to Congress, she described exactly how this impacted her physical and emotional health.
“I was training some days, seven hours a day when I was training for the Olympics, and dealing with my abuse affected me so much and it’s always something I struggle with,” he said. she declared. “When I first shared my story publicly… I didn’t even have the energy to get up in the shower. I had to sit on the floor and wash my hair because getting up was too exhausting to take. me.”
“I couldn’t even walk 10 minutes outside, and that’s somebody – I’ve been in two Olympics,” Raisman continued. “There are times when I feel like I’m forgetting what I’m saying. I feel like my mind isn’t working. I feel like I have no energy at all. J I’m 27 and my 80-year-old grandfather has more energy than me. “
Raisman said she had to be taken by ambulance for medical treatment after fainting because she was “very ill from the trauma”, noting that it could strike her sometimes, “out of the blue.”
“I think it’s important for people to understand how much – even if we don’t cry – we are all struggling and how much the survivors are suffering,” Raisman said, adding that giving his testimony on Wednesday could be something that will take its toll. “Month” to recover.
Surviving sexual abuse as a child or as an adult can lead to lasting mental health complications, experts say.
A study published in the medical journal The Lancet found that among teenage girls who had been sexually assaulted, 80% developed a mental health disorder.
According to RAINN, the National Rape, Abuse and Incest Network, about 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress after the assault, which they say is a higher percentage. higher than for any other violent crime.
According to RAINN, mental health complications resulting from sexual assault can include everything from self-harm and eating disorders to panic attacks, depression, flashbacks, substance abuse and suicide.
If you or someone you know needs help, the National Sexual Assault Hotline – 800-656-HOPE – is free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. also use the hotline’s online chat option.