Editor’s note: This story discusses sexual abuse. For additional resources or to contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline, visit www.rainn.org.
The Davis House Child Advocacy Center welcomed supporters back in person to Homestead Manor for its annual Button Ball Saturday, a night focused around raising money for victims of child abuse.
The evening centered around a conversation between Davis House Executive Director Brent Hutchinson and Aly Raisman, who was the team captain of the gold medal-winning U.S. women’s gymnastics teams in 2012 and 2016. She’s also the second-most-decorated American gymnast of all time.
Raisman gave insight into what survivors of sexual abuse, like herself, go through and how the journey towards healing is not an easy one.
Raisman and her fellow Olympic gymnast teammates recently testified before Congress related to the FBI’s handling of the abuse allegations brought against Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor who is currently serving a several-decades-long prison sentence for sexual abuse.
Raisman shared that her recent testimony brought back feelings of anxiety, trauma and nausea while trying to craft a speech that encompassed everything she wanted to say.
“It didn’t used to happen to me, but I’ve realized after years and years speaking up and trying to heal at the same time, before I came forward publicly, I hadn’t really done any healing,” she said. “I didn’t really know a lot of people that could relate to what I was going through. It wasn’t like anyone said to me, ‘Be careful, you haven’t healed on your own.’ It’s like an open wound, and you’re constantly going to be triggered.”
Through the support of her teammates and finding a better sense of balance in her life, Raisman is finding a sense of healing in her own way.
“I have a very special relationship with my teammates that I haven’t been able to find elsewhere outside of my gymnastics teammates,” she said. “We’ve been through the best of moments together but also the worst of moments together.
“What I love about spending time together is one moment we can be peeing our pants laughing and being silly, and then the next, doing something really intense and serious. It’s the best for us. That’s how I’ve survived these things is having their friendship and being able to laugh.”
The feeling of support from an army of strangers helped give Raisman the confidence she needed in her recent testimony despite adversity.
Her mission involves advocating for systematic changes within the sport of gymnastics and the eradication of sexual abuse.
“It’s very hard to put into words, but having the support of so many people was personally very helpful for me, because it’s such a hard thing for me to talk about, and it shouldn’t be,” she said. “Part of the reason why it’s so hard to talk about is because they’re so many people that go to great lengths to cover it up. You feel like you’re doing something wrong. It feels like people are against you, which is our case, it’s truly like that. There are people that are still covering it up, but to have the support of so many people who I know and don’t know gives me all my strength and courage.”
A common theme Raisman went back to over and over again was support.
“The way a survivor heals is linked to how their abuse is handled,” she said. “I know a lot of survivors when they share with their family or somebody they think is their support system, and that person doesn’t believe them, can really affect them and impact them in a way that may make them afraid to never speak up again. So, having that support system and being that person that a survivor feels safe to go to is everything, and it’s really crucial.”
To learn more about Davis House, visit www.davishousecac.org.