In the last few years, the world has come to know two-time Olympian Aly Raisman as one of the strong, vivacious and courageous “Fierce Five” gymnasts who led the United States to its gold medal victory in 2012. In more recent days, her strength has been on display in an entirely new way.
Raisman was one of over 150 young women who gave victim impact statements during the trial of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced Wednesday to up to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to several counts of criminal sexual conduct. Raisman’s statement in court was both defiant and brave, and several of her words quickly ended up on signs in multiple Women’s Marches this year.
“Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing,” Raisman said during the trial, staring directly at Nassar.
While being the picture of bravery during the trial, 23-year-old Raisman told NBC’s “Today” show on Thursday that giving her statement at Nassar’s trial was not easy. The moment she stepped up to speak, Raisman said she almost felt like she was going to compete, blocking out everyone and everything as she spoke.
After giving her victim impact statement, she felt the full weight of what she had so bravely shared. “I almost passed out, I had the worst headache for hours, and even since then, I don’t feel good now,” Raisman told NBC’s “Today.” “It’s hard to put into words, but it makes me literally sick all of the stress and the trauma of everything. … I’m very, very exhausted from it.”
Despite the emotional toll the trial took on her, Raisman said it was the right decision to address Nassar in court.
At the end of her Raisman interview, “Today” host Hoda Kotb quoted the judge who sentenced Nassar and encouraged the survivors to “leave your pain here and go do magnificent things.” When asked what “magnificent things” she wanted to do, Raisman said:
“I want to make sure this never, ever happens again and I ended my statement saying I hope that one day everyone will be educated so that they will know how to see the warning signs of a predator so they’ll never, ever have to say the words [me, too]. And I meant it with all my heart. I’m very passionate about creating change and making sure abuse never happens.”
Raisman has continued to press USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for a full review into how Nassar was able to harm young women for so long. She also took out a full-page ad in the Detroit Free Press on Thursday, thanking every single one of the women whose statements were given in court by name (or number, for those who wanted to remain anonymous).
“I am proud to stand with you all — today, tomorrow, and every day that follows,” Raisman wrote in a statement shared on Instagram.
Despite the difficult moments that are still to come, it’s clear Raisman is persisting with the same courage the world witnessed when she took the Olympics by storm in 2012 — and that bravery will help make the world a better place for all those who come after her.