Finding Thanks in an Unlikely Place

aly-raisman

When the allegations against Larry Nassar broke last summer, I thought okay, I’ll write up some quick thoughts about this, what’s going on, and not only how horrible it is, but also how horrible it is that so many people — people we know like coaches and gymnasts — were quick to jump to defend Nassar, because they believed him over the first victims to come forward.

But the story spiraled. And kept spiraling, until dozens and then over a hundred victims came forward, some publicly and others anonymously. I had no idea how to process what was going on in my own head, let alone put my thoughts into coherent, articulate, insightful words thousands of people would read.

I tried to help keep people aware of the situation and every development I came across by retweeting actual journalists covering the story from a news perspective. I was able to “cover” the events unfolding without getting too personally involved, because every time something new came out, I felt like I was being stabbed in the chest all over again.

Though I pride myself on being socially conscious and feel it is our responsibility as human beings to know what’s going on in the world and how it affects other human beings, I’m also someone who is rather obsessive and struggles with massive anxiety, so basically I spend so much of my time reading about every truly awful thing in the world in great detail and literally drive myself insane. Most people who absorb the news like sunlight become desensitized, but I get more and more anxious, and it’s vital that I separate my brain from the real world every now and then because the old adage is true — ignorance is bliss.

It’s so much easier to retweet the work of others writing about Nassar than it is to have to sift through the horrifying details and think about what actually happened to so many innocent girls and women. I’d read the headlines, but not the full articles, feeling guilty about not giving their stories the full attention they deserve but protecting my own brain at the same time because it hurt so badly.

Over the past month, many women I’ve known on a friendly acquaintance level since they were 14 — like 2012 Olympic teammates Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and McKayla Maroney, who came up in the sport as juniors at the same time I began covering meets for The Couch Gymnast in 2010 — revealed themselves as victims, and that changed how I was thinking and reacting to what was going on. Please don’t think I’m saying these three are more important than the other victims because they’re Olympic gold medalists. They’re not. As Raisman said on Twitter yesterday, “one time is too many and one person is too many.” But when you can put a face and a voice and memories to some of the over a hundred names we see in the black and white print of yet another news story, it cuts even deeper.

The 15-year-old Gabby, before she had any media training and whom we still called Gabrielle, telling me the day before she ended up beating reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber at the American Cup that she was so excited to finish up with the competition so she could see the Broadway musical Chicago. The 16-year-old Aly mimicking Martha Karolyi trying to teach her how to dance when she shocked everyone by landing a spot in the floor final at her first world championships, and Aly on her 18th birthday, laughing about putting candles in her salmon because she couldn’t eat cake. The 14-year-old McKayla shrugging, blasé, after I asked her about hitting one of the best Amanars I’d ever seen at nationals in 2010, and the 17-year-old McKayla passionately telling me her dreams for 2016 at nationals a year after London: “It’s the only thing on my mind. It’s the password on my phone.”

I can go on and on. I sobbed on press row when these three, along with Wieber and Kyla Ross, others I essentially watched grow up, were named to the Olympic team in 2012. I ran into an overwhelmed, frantic Aly backstage immediately after and congratulated her but I don’t think she even saw me through her peak emotional state. I woke up at all hours of the night to watch them compete live in London, and I still hold this team in my heart as the most special to me, because this was the first time I was fully immersed on a personal level in an Olympic cycle from beginning to end.

My personal “history” with this team absolutely made the Nassar situation more real to me. It was always something horrible, and from day one I believed the victims and wanted Nassar to spend the rest of his life in misery. But with Maroney, Douglas, and Raisman coming forward, coinciding with the powerful #MeToo movement that has helped so many women be able to open up and talk about their abuse, I began to go through a sort of awakening, about how women are conditioned in society to be ashamed of who we are and what we represent, and how we internalize misogyny in a way that most women will never even realize, let alone confront.

A few people have asked me about my thoughts on the whole “Raisman vs Douglas” drama which isn’t really a drama but rather a misunderstanding that the wrong people got involved in, causing Douglas feel forced to prematurely tell the world about her own abuse at the hands of Nassar. The two have since patched things up, with Raisman expressing her support of Douglas after Douglas came forward, followed by a response from Douglas, who thanked Raisman for forgiving her.

I’m not here to rehash what happened. But I wanted to talk about how we as human beings reacted to Douglas’ original comment, which came close to victim-blaming Raisman by suggesting that her nude photos for Sports Illustrated weren’t ‘classy’ and that women should keep themselves modest if they don’t want to become victims.

Now, even though it seemed like Douglas was personally attacking Raisman for her nude photos, I know she wasn’t. Her statement was meant to be a more general response to Raisman’s, and while still entirely inaccurate — as she later corrected in her apology by pointing out that she and her teammates were in leotards when they were abused by Nassar, also stating that “no matter what you wear, it NEVER gives anyone the right to harass or abuse you” — the fact that she, an abuse victim herself, thinks that victims are as equally culpable as the people who abuse them is what was more concerning to me.

Of course, we didn’t know she was a victim when she tweeted her response to Raisman, and so what she was saying just looked ignorant, like something someone who has never experienced abuse would think because they don’t know any better and need to be educated about the fact that the only people responsible for abuse are the abusers. But sadly, because of the way women grow up in a world that tells them they have to be sweet, pure, meek, and small to be “acceptable,” it’s easy to internalize this and it’s why many women who are abused or harassed think “if only I had done X, it wouldn’t have happened.”

When I first saw Douglas’ tweet, I was horrified and offended, as I’m sure many people were, based on the volume of replies she received. She deleted what she said within minutes of posting, but on the internet everything lasts forever, thanks to people who were quick to screen cap, excited to Call Her Out and Drag Her for her Problematic Behavior.

Her tweet was cringe-worthy and terrible, especially in direct response to her teammate of seven years, whom she knew had been abused, whom she hadn’t publicly supported after Raisman came forward with her story. I took to my personal Twitter with a vague “think before you tweet something to your literal one million followers” response, but didn’t want to join those Calling Her Out because I knew it wasn’t what it looked like. I had reason to suspect she was likely also a victim, and based on her general demeanor since returning to the sport, I knew she probably wasn’t dealing with it all that well.

As problematic as her words were, many women who are victims of sexual abuse have full-on battles in their heads about why this happened to them, and what they could’ve done to change it. I’ve been there. I would never victim blame anyone else on the planet, but I’m still not fully convinced that I didn’t do something to cause this and I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I can say “you did nothing wrong.”

I have nearly two decades between what happened and where I am now. For someone like Douglas, forced to spend time with her abuser until two years ago, growing up in a sport where athletes are treated like robots expected to do whatever adults tell them, in a religion that expects women to be subservient to men, it’s not hard to see why she thinks the way she does.

Douglas is also a young woman people tend to hate no matter what she says or does. She became the first African-American gymnast to win the Olympic all-around gold medal and people made fun of her hair. She didn’t smile on the podium or put her hand over her heart during the national anthem and people cyber bullied her. She didn’t attend a few post-Olympic events with her teammates and fans of the sport called her a bitch.

Throughout all of this, Raisman defended her. And when Douglas made her bizarre, tone-deaf, offensive comment to Raisman on Twitter, Raisman didn’t respond with hate as so many other people — including one of Douglas’ own teammates — did. Raisman didn’t say a thing, until Douglas apologized and released her own statement about her own abuse, after which Raisman said the most simple, but the most powerful words.

“I support you.”

Maybe Doulgas isn’t the best of friends with any of her teammates, and maybe they even see her as a bit odd. When I did a six-week science program in a secluded rainforest in college, I’d often retreat to my room with a book after a long day with my 15 classmates, needing a mental break because I’m introverted and it’s physically draining to spend every waking moment with other people. Because of this, people thought I was a bitch who didn’t want to ‘bond’ with the group, so I can see why Douglas, who is similarly introverted, would be seen by her more outgoing teammates as being different in some way. Or maybe she is a gigantic dick to everyone and they just don’t like her.

But that doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be best friends with people or even like them to stand up for them and support them in something that goes beyond pettiness. Women are each other’s own biggest enemies, constantly pitting women against women and getting so inundated in drama that they forget what really matters, which is why nothing ever gets done. When you’re more concerned about tweeting hate to a gymnast you don’t know because she made a mistake than you are about working to help educate women about the internalized misogyny that makes them think women deserve to be abused, manipulated, and exploited, you are part of the problem.

Raisman stepping up like this to forgive and support her teammate is what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. Raisman has always been a gymnast I’ve admired for her sheer passion and work ethic, so much so that I wrote a young adult series with a main character loosely based on her and her story.

She has always inspired me to work harder and be better, and since she began stepping up this summer as a voice for victims, the only national-level gymnast who has been outspoken against an organization she hopes to continue to compete for in the future, she has also inspired me in my commitment to social responsibility and using my voice for those who can’t.

Her maturity, her commitment to spreading kindness, her passion for helping others, and her dedication to being the best version of herself in everything she does, from gymnastics to educating people about abuse so that future generations will grow up in a world better than she did, everything Raisman stands for is what I aspire to be as a human being. She inspires me every single day, and I’m grateful that she is such an incredible role model for women and girls.

I’ve recently stepped back from certain areas of the gymternet because of the sheer hate and atrocious behavior toward women like Douglas and others who have been accused, tried, and convicted in the gymternet’s court, many of whom have done nothing more serious than expressing something in a problematic way, making an unpopular political comment, and even for not showing public support for something on social media. If you create scenarios and spread speculative rumors based on knowing five percent of the facts, you are part of the problem. If you are judging someone based on what they don’t share online, you are part of the problem. If you are spreading hate about a gymnast who made a mistake, you are part of the problem.

Douglas made a mistake, as have many gymnasts, as has nearly every human being on this planet. But the hate she receives is absolutely unwarranted as a response. Letting someone know they made a mistake and forgiving them when they correct their behavior is okay, but getting super excited to drag someone and pull receipts and shame them, especially as someone not even remotely connected to the situation, is not okay.

I hope people can see Raisman as an example of how to be someone who can address someone’s problematic behavior in a classy and respectful way that separates who the person is from what the person did and focuses more on educating than shaming. That is the definition of an advocate, and if we could all be more like this instead of judgmental, catty, and excited to call people out when they do something wrong, women would be able to trust and rely on one another more easily, making for an environment in which women can openly discuss and confront their issues without feeling like they’ll be attacked if they say something wrong.

Yesterday, finally, Nassar pled guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual assault, admitting that the “treatments” he performed on hundreds of girls and women across multiple sports were “not medically necessary.” Nassar is also awaiting sentencing after having pleaded guilty in federal court on child pornography charges, and he, USA Gymnastics, Martha Karolyi, Michigan State University, and a number of club coaches across the country all face civil suits filed on behalf of many of Nassar’s victims.

It’s not the end of the road for Nassar or his victims, but it’s one of many small victories for those who have been harmed by him in his marathon stretch of abuse, during which he exploited mostly sheltered children who trusted him to help, not harm, and also found him to be an ally in a sport where the majority of athletes are underage girls expected to do what they’re told and not question authority.

As Jacob Denhollander tweeted after his wife Rachael — the first woman to bravely come forward with her accusations against Nassar, exposing one of the biggest predators in the history of sports and inspiring over a hundred more to follow — spoke at Nassar’s hearing yesterday, Nassar “didn’t account for the fact that the scared little girls would become brave, fearless women who would turn the tables and see him rot in jail.”

Thank you to Rachael for sparking a revolution that will change the culture in gymnastics at every level. Thank you to all of the survivors of sexual assault and abuse who use your voices to fight back against the systemic expectation that women will quietly submit. And thank you to Aly for inspiring me to be the best version of myself, to take responsibility for correcting my behavior when I judge someone, and to use my voice for good.

Happy Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for?

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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61 thoughts on “Finding Thanks in an Unlikely Place

  1. Lauren, you are an inspiration for the gymnastics world. I love your website and your positive and unbiased demeanour towards gymnasts.
    I was a victim myself and have been struggling with ways to voice it, women like Aly are indeed nothing but inspiring. Gabby, McKayla and all the other women who came forward, anonymously of not, are nothing but extremely brave and should be praised and respected.

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    • Thank you so much! I’m so sorry to hear that you were a victim and I’m so glad people like Aly and others are using their voices in a way that is helping others become more open about their own experiences! It makes it less of a stigma the more people talk about it and I’m so glad people are becoming inspired to use their voices. If we MUST have tragedy like this, then it’s great we can also get something positive out of it.

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  2. Wow, just wow thank you! I cried reading this because it brought a big relief to know someone was thinking/feeling exactly what I was and put it in writing in a way I could never have. Some of the stress/depression I’ve been having over this issue is now less. I’ve been so bummed out over this misunderstanding/misinterpretation of Gabbys tweet…just feel awful for her so much negative and hateful dirt thrown at her😞…I love her and Aly and wish them both the best on their road to recovery. #metoo

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    • Thank you so much! My gut reaction to Gabby’s tweet was definitely like “damn girl” because it was BAD. But you really do have to put it in perspective and think about why she might tweet something like that. She’s definitely misunderstood and takes so much crap from people who don’t know her at all, and I include some of her teammates in that, people who THINK they know her because they have spent time with her on a team, but who don’t actually know her, her history, and what she’s been through. Even if she was a diva from hell, and even if we could fully justify not liking her, none of that has anything to do with how she reacts to situations as a result of her abuse.

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    • Thank you so much! Yes, a very difficult subject, and one I’ve really been trying to approach since the first victim came forward but never really quite knew how. I’m glad I found a way that is resonating with people and that made it able for me to articulate my many, many, MANY thoughts about everything happening within and around what happened.

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  3. So true about how heartfelt it is when you can put a face and voice to a name, and Alys words touched me as well, when she said that when girls congratulate her all she can think about is how it sickens her that they can go through the same thing. I just sometimes imagine not the 20-30 year olds stepping forward but children like Sienna Robinson, Sunisa Lee, Emma Malabuyo going through something like that and I just so badly want change.

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    • Yes. When Rachael came forward, obviously I was devastated for her, even though I had no idea who she was…just as I was devastated for every victim that came forward after her. But these three in particular just killed me and really opened my eyes to it. Seeing a bunch of Jane Does and names you don’t know in print doesn’t make your breath stop the way seeing the name of someone you know does.

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  4. A wonderful article, Lauren. You put into words much of what I’ve been thinking over the past few days and didn’t know how to say.

    Aly Raisman has just absolutely blown me away with her strength, compassion and empathy over these past few weeks. I was never her biggest fan, but what a truly class act she is. To respond to Gabby in the way she did while everyone else was busy slinging mud says so much about her character. What an inspiration.

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    • Thank you! I’ve been trying to articulate the Gabby stuff on twitter and in conversations with people, but at times I’d catch myself being like “but what she said was TRASH.” It really takes a lot to reconcile a truly horrible comment with why a person might have said it, and sometimes people DO say stuff just to be trash people, but in Gabby’s case it just went so much deeper than that and I really have to keep reminding myself why she might be woefully misled. And Aly is literally the classiest human ever. I’m sure she was upset by Gabby’s comments, and probably even pissed off, but I love that she was able to hold back and wait to confront the situation until she could say something important.

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  5. I was worried we were going to crucify one of the victims for her response, and look what we went and did. Thank you for a perfect blend of supporting the victims and criticizing the gymternet’s crap. Hopefully we’ll take this horrible mistake and correct our behavior.

    Unfortunately, many seem not to want to make that change. So far, the comments on Spencer’s post are full of criticism of Gabby, and not one person has gone back and refocused after the news about Gabby broke.

    Rachel Denhollander is a hero. May Nassar rot in prison.

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    • Yeah, based on lots of things I’d heard, I had a pretty good feeling Gabby was a victim, and so that was definitely in my mind when she made that comment and when she came out with her own story, it was the least surprising thing on the planet. In one sense, you don’t want to be like “oh, she was abused, she can say whatever she wants because we feel bad for her!” which is def what some people do with victims…but I think it really is super important to look beyond the comment itself and see why someone would think or say something like that. We’re so quick to judge people for saying something dumb, but this isn’t like Carlotta Ferlito saying racist crap. It’s a victim of abuse who has been conditioned in life to think that women deserve to be treated like shit if they aren’t perfect ladies. Imagine if everyone who attacked her instead tried to show her that women are worthy of love and acceptance no matter how they dress?

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      • I completely agree about Gabby. I think we should extend the same understanding to Carlotta Ferlito. She also made a completely boneheaded (and yes, racist) statement, but we also don’t know her life story or what she’s been conditioned to believe by adults in power.

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    • YES, when I saw that tweet it was as I was editing and wrapping things up with this post (which took me a solid 24 hours to write) I was like ooh YAS because it was just everything I wanted to say about the strength in these girls and how they’re completely turning the tables. That’s the biggest fuck you a victim can give to her abuser and it’s so incredible seeing these girls and women taking charge while their abuser sits there a sniveling mess.

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  6. You can’t have a gymnastics program where the environment is nice and comfy and which brings home medals. Look at what happened to Romania, Russia etc after westernization and how well the USA did before the Karolyi dictatorship. Unfortunately abuse correlates with results in gymnastics because consistency is achieved through grinding pain and fear which is not natural to humans. Either accept that or abolish gymnastics, which hopefully is what people will do in the future after realizing how barbaric it is (growth stunt, severe hormone changes, lifelong injuries etc).

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    • USA girls are forced to smile and look happy in front of the cameras when they literally and emotionally are breaking inside. Wouldn’t be surprised if Karolyi not only knew but actually encouraged abuse.

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    • It’s not just a gymnastics issue though, it’s society wide. I don’t think I’ve ever met a single woman who hasn’t at bare minimum been sexually harassed. Most women I’ve known have been sexually abused or raped. I’m 37 years old and this is the first time in my whole life I’ve seen victims be believed and supported on such a broad scale (although there are obviously still people saying shitty things too) and there first time there’s starting to be significant consequences for abusers. There’s rape culture and abuse culture in gymnastics and it needs to change, but there’s rape and abuse culture everywhere in the whole world and abolishing gymnastics isn’t going to fix that.

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    • Sexual abuse doesn’t equal results. That comment is ignorant and idiotic. Aly, Gabby and McKayla didn’t need to be molested to win gold, and would’ve gotten the results they got probably much easier without it, because their mental state would’ve been a little bit more clear. For abuse in general, I do think the Karolyis knew and allowed it, you can’t tell me that they never realized that up to 200 girls got abused in their facility and after 20 years they didn’t notice a thing. Also gymnasts from the late 70s to 90s that trained under them accused them of direct abuse or encouraged abuse. Gymnastics furthermore doesn’t need abuse to function. If you want to be comfortable then it’s not the sport for you. Gymnastics is disciplinary in order to be successful, but not abusive. Stunted growth and injuries is undeniable, but hormone changes is called puberty not gymnastics training.

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        • Yeah, MAYBE that was true in the 90s and earlier when people were deliberately trying to stunt growth, but now it’s more that the shorter gymnasts just tend to be more successful because the sport’s easier when you’re shorter. There are plenty of gymnasts who work super hard and still grow to be tall once they hit puberty. In fact, aside from like Morgan and Ragan, every gymnast currently competing in the US is taller than ME and I’m 5’1…and internationally a good number of gymnasts are average heights…like pretty sure girls like Morgan and Ragan were gonna be small no matter what, so good thing they ended up in gymnastics because it worked out for them hahaha. And those who are successful pre-puberty at smaller heights and later grow to be tall generally struggle a lot in elite when they grow (Kyla anyone?). So I highly doubt the chain of events is doing gymnastics –> stunted growth. In actuality it’s naturally small –> more aptitude for the sport.

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        • Gymnastics does naturally stunt growth to a certain extent. Gymnastics is a sport you do at a really young age, so when you repeatedly do high intensity training from the age of 7 (when most elites begin to get serious about it) that pound the joints, it sends the signal to your body to not stretch out in a way?, that explanation sucks but I don’t know how to elegantly word that. Like McKayla Maroney is and her dad is 6 ft 4. Kyla’s Dad is also super tall, and her brother is like 6 ft or taller even though he’s a sophomore in high school and her sisters 5 ft 10 so I’m sure she would’ve been even taller without gymnastics. A lot of the gymnasts on the men’s side are 5 ft 5 to 5 ft 6 and id be willing to bet that they’re short because of gymnastics. There are gymnasts that get tall regardless (Georgia Rose Brown, Marie Sophie Hindermann, Alexander Shatilov, Kristian Thomas) but even the “tall” gymnasts are kind of stunted.

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        • Yeah, I agree that the shorter girls generally self select because they’re more successful earlier on. I do absolutely agree with the common view that gymnastics delays puberty and thus also growth because of the intense training, but I believe that recent research has shown that gymnasts continue to grow after they retire (even if they’re late teens or older) and eventually reach the adult height they were always going to reach, gymnastics or not.

          I would say though that the vast, vast majority of gymnasts internationally are of well below average height, to the extent that girls like Ellie Downie (no taller than 5’4) and Nina Derwael (I believe she’s 5’6ish?) absolutely tower over everyone else. Would be interesting to see a comparison of gymnast heights although it’s hard to find accurate info on this. Sorry for the off topic!

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        • I hate this situation where people think is bad that gymnasts are small amd think they should manipulate the code to give advantage to tall gurls.
          Actually gymnastics is one of thr only sports that are naturally advantageous to short girls, or latter blommer, in almost all other sports they are strongly discriminated! Gymnastics is a sport that with good coaching and mental support these little girls feel powerful, the small can feel giant. Do you see me people tring yo ” include” shorties in basketball, volleyball, swimming???? No!
          Stop body shaming the shorties with thid conversation anf let them have a sport that they actually are stronger withouttrying to” include”big girls. Common! Nothing wrong to be short!!!!!

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        • Your dad’s height is pretty irrelevant when you’re a woman, tbh. I’m an ex-gymnast and I ended up being 5’4. My sister never did gymnastics and is 5’6. Our dad is around 6’2. I think it’s almost impossible to prove whether growth is truly stunted or not, which is why the jury is still out after all these years. I’m not saying it definitely doesn’t stunt growth, but I think short girls being more likely to succeed in the early years/junior years is a big part of it too. A lot of the girls I trained with were already very small for their age, even before they started serious conditioning or entered into the development program.

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        • I’m not saying that ending up short is a bad thing, but the post I was commenting to listed growth stunt as a side effect of gymnastics which is true; if you’re going to be tall your going to be tall anyway but maybe not as much as you could’ve been. I qualified it but didn’t categorize it as being negative.

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    • The US didn’t win gold because they were being molested by their doctor. Discipline in sports does not correlate to abuse. The culture of abuse in USA Gymnastics was even greater back in the late 90s/early 2000s, and the U.S. women weren’t winning shit then. In fact, even though the Nassar stuff was still going on up until 2015, the overall culture at the ranch has been trending to one that’s more open and accepting than ever before, and while it’s still a highly-disciplined environment, the current generation of national team coaches has been incredible with working to change things for the better. And, oh, guess what? They’re still the best in the world.

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    • Disagree. I believe gymnastics can be empowering for girls! With empowering , motivating coaching. And accepting the fact the the short have advantages in the sport in a elite level as the tall have advantages in basketball, dont try to push it to a level if you don’t have it naturally, luckily we have sports for all sizes and we don’t have to do it in a highest level always if we don’t have it. If people just accept it, there would be less drugs and disappointments.

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  7. Thank you for a lovely, thoughtful article Lauren. I would like to thank you especially for your candor and strength in discussing your personal feelings and experiences related to the issue. You are 100% right, too often we put a malicious interpretation on events where we don’t have enough information to form an educated opinion. I hope we can all do better at giving each other the benefit of the doubt moving forward.

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  8. Lauren, I’ve always loved your blog but this article really cemented for me why you’re such an integral part of the gymnastics world. Your personal connections to gymnasts all over the world has given your reporting a view of competitions we can’t gleam from watching them on tv. You’ve made me fall in love with so many amazingly talented gymnasts I might not have if I didn’t have the opportunity to see them from the angle you do.

    This situation was downright horrifying from the start and has higher profile gymnasts have continued to come forward, it has been absolutely heartbreaking. You constantly reminded us that they aren’t talented robots and that there is more to them than the skills they can perform or the scores they receive. All of them have made personal sacrifices to make it as far as they have and to carry on to do so while this was going on behind the scenes is infuriating and saddening at the same time.

    I appreciate you putting so much of yourself out there to continue to show that this culture is absolutely unacceptable and even one IS one too many. None of these girls has demanded pity, they demand CHANGE and I am 100% behind them. It’s amazing that the abuse these girls have experienced either first or second hand hasn’t silenced them.

    Thank you for all that you do, you are truly appreciated.

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    • Thank you so much! It always bothers me when people see a two-second TV clip or a single tweet and create entire scenarios and worlds based on these infinitesimal moments. I first started getting really frustrated by it with Nina Derwael being shown smiling on camera for a second after realizing she won gold, and the stories that came out of that one-second moment turned her into a monster who was so happy about Becky Downie getting injured…even though the girls are actually friends and the first thing that came out of Nina’s mouth when I talked to her after was “do you know if Becky is okay?” And yet people refused to believe what I know and witnessed firsthand because they felt that one second of smiling on camera was proof of drama. It’s for things like these that I’m ALWAYS trying to bring in my own personal stories and knowledge because the caricatures people create based on things like social media and competition clips are SO unfair to the human beings who exist beyond the 1% of their lives you see online.

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  9. Hi Lauren, thanks for the very prudent and yet emotional writing. As a father of a gymnast I am with all families affected, and hoping this gets translated to many languages in the world!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hi Lauren, that was such an eloquent, heartfelt article. Aly is amazing – I was so impressed by how she was gracious every time she finished off the podium, and how so many people in 2010-2011 didn’t give her the credit she deserved, and NOW she’s grown into this BAMF and is such an inspiration so so many people. I’ve been reading your website since it first came out. Thank you so much for giving such thorough and interesting coverage. Oh and I bought your book yesterday (the first one) – I love it so far (so much more exciting that doing my thesis, sigh!).

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you so much for addressing this topic in your own beautiful, personal way. I support you and support every gymnast who has suffered abuse. Through speaking out, writing boldly and supporting each other, we will change the culture and help teach each other that abuse is intolerable and no one need be a victim.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you, Lauren, for this thoughtful and articulate post. I hope your words and the words of victims inspire others to come forward with their experiences. I have found for myself that there is a great solace to be found in solidarity – we are not alone in this anger, fear, confusion, and grief. My heart goes out to all those girls and women affected by this monster as well as all the other monsters in this world. Stay strong and let the world hear your voice. You are not alone!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. This brought tears in my eyes.
    I hope it brings real change and there is a long way to go. Because ot is not only sexual abuse, it is psychological abuse and enhanced performance drugs abuse too, ok?
    I saw myself some situations of this, but you are never sure and you are afraid to say something and they begin to pick on somebody you love that is just a kid doing the sport they love. It is a sport full of petty nepotism, where jury abuse of their power to favor of punish little girls that work so hard so Early. Where coaches have the power to give more attention to the girls they favor ( their own kid or the kid of the director of the gym)and purposely putting down the ones can be their Competition, if they are at same team, breaking them emotionally, mining their self confidence. Where coaches sometimes do everything to some girls give up. Can be awful! There is a long way, long long way!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Lauren, you’re just as important to shaping the conversation as Aly. I love the Gymternet, and am a loyal visitor, but I hope you consider republishing essays like this where millions of people will read it. I’m sure the NYT would love to have your op-ed. What you have to say is so important.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much! I wish I had the patience to figure out op-ed submissions and all of that but I’m happy people here are resonating with this and finding it to be an important part to the conversation!

      Like

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  16. Lauren, this is a beautifully written editorial. You’re eloquent in your unwavering support of the abused women and your own story adds so much to it – I’m so sorry that you, too, were a victim of abuse, and I support you. Keep doing what you do here, you’re a great voice for the sport but also just a great voice in general. Thank you.

    Like

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