Olympian Aly Raisman: More than a Survivor, an Advocate!

Rio de Janeiro - Aly Raisman, ginasta dos Estados Unidos, durante final em que levou medalha de ouro na disputa por equipes feminina nos Jogos Olímpicos Rio 2016. (Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)

Aly Rose Raisman a legend in the gymnastics community.  Aly was born on May 25, 1994 to Rick and Lynn Raisman.  She was raised in Needham, Massachusetts along with her three younger siblings Brett, Chloe, and Madison.  This young woman is a decorated gymnast, model, a survivor, and a spokesperson for victims who have been affected by sexual abuse.  Many generations admire Aly for her work ethic, athleticism, and her ability to voice her opinions on issues that she holds dear to her heart.1

Aly was exposed to the sport of gymnastics at a very young age.  Lynn, Aly’s mother had competed at the high school level and had a great passion for the sport, and so she exposed Aly to gymnastics at the age of two years old.  This is where the love for the sport began before it eventually grew to be Aly’s passion.  As a young girl she enjoyed following the journey of the “Magnificent Seven” during the 1996 Summer Olympics.  This team became role models for young Aly to look up too as she was progressing in the sport.  Aly began training at the Exxcel Gymnastics and Climbing facility up until level eight.  As she became more competitive she transitioned to a new gym that was Brestyan’s American Gymnastics Club.  She had the great privilege of training under two great coaches Mihai and Silvia Brestyan.2

Aly Raisman competing on the Floor at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Throughout Aly’s career she competed in many different competitions that built up her success.  In July 2012 Aly competed at one of the biggest and most important competitions a professional athlete could dream of attending — the Olympic Trials.  Aly gave this competition her all, and she did not disappoint. She placed third place in the All-Around event in San Jose, California.  On the balance beam and on the floor routine, she placed first.  This remarkable performance led to her joining the Olympic Team that would attend the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. 3

Aly was now a part of the team that would be known as the “Fierce Five.” Being the eldest on the team, Aly was named the team captain.  At the end of July, Aly and her teammates attended the Olympic Games in London.  Aly assisted her team to qualify for the team final with first place who then went on to win the gold medal as a team.  Individually, she qualified with second place for the all-around event.  Overall, Aly won the bronze medal for the balance beam, and then won the gold medal for the floor exercise. She made history for the 2012 Olympic Games because she was the first ever American woman to receive a gold medal on the floor exercise.4

After the 2012 Olympics Aly continued training and unfortunately ran into an injury pertaining to her knees.  Slowly she was cleared to compete again and she began on her road to her next Olympic Games.  Going into the Olympic trials in July 2016 Aly was seen as the underdog at this competition because of the talent showcased by two incoming younger gymnasts Laurie Hernandez and Simone Biles. Aly made the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s gymnastics team.  The talented gymnast made history again because she and Douglas were the first U.S. women to compete at the Olympics back-to-back since the 2000 games.  The U.S. team qualified for the team final in first place.  The team known as “The Final Five” won the Gold Medal for the team event.  Individually, Aly Raisman won silver medals in the all-around and floor events.  Between the two Olympic appearances, Aly has a total of six Olympic medals making her a very decorated Olympic athlete.  With all the success Aly Raisman had, the media portrayed her as having the perfect life when in reality she was dealing with something terrible in her life. In 2017 Aly came out as one of the many victims of Larry Nassar.5


Laurie Hernandez, Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Madison Kocian, and Gabby Douglas celebrating at the 2016 Olympics. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Lawrence (Larry) Nassar was born on August 16, 1963 to Fred and Mary Nassar in Farmington Hills, Massachusetts.  After high school he studied kinesiology at the University of Michigan and graduated in 1985.  Then, in 1993 Nassar graduated from Michigan State University as a Doctor of Osteopathic medicine. In 1997 Nassar went on to complete a Sports Medicine fellowship.  After this great accomplishment Nassar began working at MSU’s Department of Family and Community Medicine in the College of Medicine as an Assistant Professor. At this time, Nassar was well known for his work in medicine and was even commended for his research regarding injuries that affected the lives of many gymnasts.6

As Nassar’s career began to take off, he had the honor to work for the USA Gymnastics Team from 1996 until 2014.  The doctor had a great reputation which made Nassar seem like a good choice.  But in reality, he was not. Larry Nassar was a man who changed the lives of many women and men in a very negative way. He took advantage of young women and men in a sexual manner.7  In December 2016, Nassar was convicted of being a child molester.  The doctor had not just one accusation of sexual abuse against him, but two hundred and fifty women and one man placed accusations against him.8

Accusations about Larry Nassar came out quickly and en masse, which ultimately led to his conviction.  In November 2016, Nassar received state charges of sexual assault of a child from 1998 to 2005.  He was also charged with 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with minors.  On December 2016 Nassar was arrested due to having over 37,000 images of child pornography and videos of him molesting many young girls.  In 2017 all his hard work and dedication went down the drain when his medical license was revoked.  On July 11, 2017 Nassar pled guilty for possession of pornographic images of children from 2004 to 2016.  The doctor had even tampered with evidence and hid these images.  Judge Janet T. Neff decided that Nassar would serve sixty years in prison for his actions on December 7, 2017.  Then, on January 24, 2018, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina who determined that he would be sentenced for 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual assault of minors.  To add to all his sentences, by January 31, 2018, approximately 265 women had accused this doctor of sexual misconduct.  It is inevitable that Larry Nassar will spend the remainder of his life in federal prison for his actions.9


At the age of fifteen, Aly Raisman realized that things were not the way that they should be with her doctor Larry Nassar.  The. young gymnast stated that Nassar “does make me really uncomfortable and touches me in ways that are really weird and not normal.”10 No fifteen year old should ever have to deal with the circumstances Aly and many other women dealt with. According to Aly, the procedures that Nassar used never seemed to help her condition.  Aly also found it absurd that Nassar never used gloves during any procedures.  It was stated by Time Magazine, “According to Raisman and other gymnasts who have described the encounters, Nassar’s methods consisted primarily of invasive massage, touching the girls around their pelvic areas and vagina. The athletes were sent to Nassar for all types of pain, and he often suggested massage as the treatment.”11  Nassar took advantage of these innocent young girls because at this time they did not exactly know what sexual abuse is and the warning signs to look out for.12


Most of these young women that were sexual abused dealt with this while they were away from home traveling for competitions.  Nassar befriended the young athletes  to gain their trust so they would not suspect anything during his treatments.  He often surprised his athletes at their hotel rooms with snacks and little gifts.  The girls really appreciated the surprises and only considered it to be a kind gesture, and most thought nothing more of it.  These gymnasts trusted Nassar, and many considered him a friend. Nassar had a good reputation and most people thought very highly of him. This reputation led these girls to believe that the pain they were enduring was apart of the process of healing their injuries.13

Aly Raisman is not alone in the way she is feeling; many women are dealing with the same issues as she is.  Until recently, few accusations against Larry Nassar, which date back to 1994, were not taken seriously.  At least two hundred and fifty women and one man had to endure this inappropriate behavior for over the course of twenty years.  It is vital that the system change, not one individual should get away from this horrible act of sexual abuse.  In 2016, a former gymnast Rachael Denhollander committed an act of bravery by becoming the first individual to accuse Nassar of sexual abuse.  This action then started a chain reaction for other young women to come forward.  Soon many other gymnasts came out bravely and spoke out about the sexual abuse that they had endured over the years of training. According to Rachael she “has weathered attempts by USAG, Michigan State, even law enforcement to downplay their liability.”14 It is awful how this sexual abuse case was basically placed under the rug to protect the organizations.  Aly and her teammates Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Madison Kocian, and Laurie Hernandez all leaned on each other regarding the abuse they had endured.  Other well known gymnasts that also came out as being sexually abused where McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber.15


Aly Raisman at the United States Capitol speaking as an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Aly Raisman’s life will never be the same after the sexual abuse she endured as a young girl.  Like many victims, this is an issue that she will have to deal with for the rest of her life.  Rather than letting this issue define her, Aly has decided that she will stand up and fight for what is right by becoming an advocate for sexual abuse. Many young individuals look up to Aly Raisman not only for her athleticism, but also for her courage, bravery, persistence, and leadership qualities.  Her goal is to educate others about sexual abuse, specifically warning signs so that others know what too look out for.  Aly strongly believes that by using her voice pertaining to this situation it gives her a new purpose.  She also works to connect with other young victims that have also been sexually abused to empower these individuals. 16

Since coming out with her story Aly has spoken at several events over the years.  She spoke out at the United States Capitol as an advocate of sexual abuse.  Aly Raisman and numerous other survivors of the USA Gymnastics team were awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on May 16, 2018.  She has made her voice loud and clear on sexual abuse and has definitely made a difference for herself and many other individuals going through the same battle.17


On January 19, 2018 Aly Raisman and many other victims stood in front of Nasser in the courtroom. Raisman read an impact statement at his sentencing.  On February 28, 2018 Aly filed a lawsuit against the USA Gymnastics and the USOC.  Her reason for suing these two programs was because they “knew or should have known” about the ongoing abuse.”18 Raisman along with many other gymnasts felt as though the USA Gymnastics did not handle the situation correctly.  It seemed as though the organization really did not care about the issue that they had in front of them.  The Olympic Organization stated “We are very sorry that any athlete has been hurt by the despicable crimes of Larry Nassar. . . . USA Gymnastics is committed to doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again by making bold decisions and holding ourselves to the highest standards of care.”19

Aly has made it clear that this whole journey has been very difficult.  She describes that it is a very long process and she is still processing things.  Aly stated that at this moment she is focusing on herself because that is what she needs to do to get passed this.  She is focused on taking part in activities and spending time with people that truly makes her happy and content.  She feels disappointed with the USA Gymnastics  and the Olympic Committee for not prioritizing their athletes over a coach who had repeated sexual abuse accusations Aly has discussed that she isn’t sure if she will compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. 20


Sexual abuse is a topic in society many people like to avoid discussing. It has become an issue that many people have had to bravely face for many years. This issue of abuse has become extremely prevalent in collegiate and professional athletics. There are rules set in place for anything we do in life for protection and for guidance and some individuals chose to be disobedient. In colleges, Title IX is something to protect students from discrimination and anytime of harm. If reported this should be taken seriously, it is important that this be followed to protect the athletes and allow the issue to be taken care of appropriately if and when needed.21 There have been many cases for collegiate and professional sports that have not been investigated properly. Sexual abuse is an important issue and it can no longer pushed under the rug. The predator deserves consequences for their actions, while the victims deserve justice for what they had to go through. 22

  1. Wikipedia, 2019, s.v. “Aly Raisman.”
  2. Wikipedia, 2019, s.v. “Aly Raisman.”
  3. Wikipedia, 2019, s.v. “Aly Raisman.”
  4. Wikipedia, 2019, s.v. “Aly Raisman.”
  5. Wikipedia, 2019, s.v. “Aly Raisman.”
  6. Wikipedia, 2019, s.v. “Larry Nassar.”
  7. Wikipedia, 2019, s.v. “Larry Nassar.”
  8. Wikipedia, 2019, s.v. “Aly Raisman.”
  9. Wikipedia,2019, s.v. “Larry Nassar.”
  10.   Johnny Dodd and Megan Johnson, “Aly Raisman What I went through Was Horrific,” People, 22 November 2017, 62-65
  11. Alice Park, “Olympic Gymnast Aly Raisman Opens Up About Sexual Abuse,” Time International (Asia Edition) 109, no. 22/23 (2017): 20-21.
  12. Alice Park, “Olympic Gymnast Aly Raisman Opens Up About Sexual Abuse,” Time International (Asia Edition) 109, no. 22/23 (2017): 20-21.
  13. Johnny Dodd and Megan Johnson, “Aly Raisman What I went through Was Horrific,” People, 22 November 2017, 62-65.
  14. Stephanie Apstein, “A Sportsperson will…INSPIRE,” Sports Illustrated 129, no. 13 (2018) 86-90.
  15. Steve Heiling, “Aly Raisman I will not be silenced” People 80, no. 8 (2018).
  16. Steve Heiling, “Aly Raisman I will not be silenced” People 80, no. 8 (2018).
  17. Wikipedia, 2019, s.v. “Aly Raisman.”
  18. Wikipedia, 2019, s.v. “Aly Raisman.”
  19. Will Hobson ,“Aly Raisman files lawsuit against USOC, USA Gymnastics over alleged Sexual Abuse,” The Washington Post, 2 March 2018.
  20. Steve Heiling, “Aly Raisman I will not be silenced” People 80, no. 8 (2018).
  21. Nikki R. Breeland, “The Army You Created’: Combating the Issue of Sexual Assault in College and Quasi- Professional Sports,” 7 Miss. Sports L. Rev., Forthcoming (2018).
  22. Susan Ladika, Michelle Bangen, Lisa Wade,“Sports and. Sexual Assault: Can Colleges and Pro Leagues Curb Abuse by Athletes,” CQ Researcher, no. 16 (2017).

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55 Responses

  1. This is such an inspiring article written about Aly Raisman. I remember when I was young watching her in the 2012 Olympics, but I never knew she had such a backstory. I can’t imagine having to encounter sexual abuse by your own doctor during the peak of your career. Aly is so strong for being able to overcome this but sadly, this is a reality for most women. I hope one day society will be better by teaching our future sons to respect women and learn no means no.

  2. This article was a great informative way of sharing Aly’s story. I really liked how the article showed her story, and struggles, while also reinforcing the positive message that you can do it and push through any problems you face. It is so crucial to inform people to speak up about this and to be brave enough to tell us their problems so that we can help them and their lives. This article did a great job on having Aly be an inspirational role as this problem is no where near acceptable and should be stopped at all costs

  3. After reading this article it is truly heartbreaking to realize the reality of female athletes. Aly was such a powerful and strong girl telling her story to the world. This article was well written and demonstrates the attention this topic should have. It’s sad to see how this man was doing this for so long. Aly uses her platform to advocate awareness that other athletes experience the same as her.

  4. It is truly sad to see something like this happen, and how it took that much people to come out before they charged hum. Aly’s story is a very good story as she already had the popularity and using her platform correctly she was able to get things done. And I liked how you ended your article with that call to action.

  5. It breaks my heart to read articles like this, but this is a reality and thank you for telling Aly’s story. Aly is truly a very strong girl, to have gone through not only her knee injury during the peak of her career but the sexual abuse by her doctor. This man is repulsing and 36 years of prison is not enough to pay for all the mental damage done to all those women and than man.

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