At ESPN’s annual awards ceremony, the ESPYs, the survivors of Dr. Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse — led by Olympic champion Aly Raisman — took to the stage to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage award. As the 141 survivors filled the stage — and it was not even all of them — the entire audience rose to a standing ovation.
The first woman who spoke, Sarah Klein, was Nasser’s first known victim from over 30 years ago. Klein said, “It is a privilege to stand up here with my sister survivors as we represent hundreds more who are not with us tonight. Make no mistake: We are here on this stage to present an image for the world to see — a portrait of survival, a new vision of courage.”
She continued, “Speaking up and speaking out is not easy. Telling our stories of abuse over and over and over again, in graphic detail, is not easy. We’re sacrificing privacy. We’re being judged and scrutinized and it’s grueling, and it’s painful — but it is time.”
Klein, now a mother, ended her speech with, “we must care about children’s safety more than we care about adult’s reputations. And as a survivor, I am here to say — if we can just give one person the courage to use their voice, this is worth it. If one more victim of sexual abuse feels less alone tonight, then our suffering has meaning.”
Softball athlete Tiffany Thomas Lopez spoke next, saying, “I encourage those suffering to hold tight to your faith, and stand tall when speaking your truth, because I am here to tell you that you cannot silence the strong forever.”
“1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. These were the years we spoke up about Larry Nasser’s abuse. All those years, we were told, ‘you are wrong. You misunderstood. He’s a doctor. It’s okay. Don’t worry, we’ve got it covered. Be careful, there are risks involved.’ The intention? To silence us, in favor of money, medals, and reputation. But we persisted, and finally, someone listened and believed us.”
“The ripple effect of our actions — or inactions — can be enormous, spanning generations. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this nightmare is that it could’ve been avoided,” she said powerfully. “All we needed was one adult to have the integrity to stand between us and Larry Nasser. If just one adult had listened, believed, and acted, the people standing before you on this stage would have never met him.”
Raisman ends: “To all the survivors out there, don’t let anyone re-write your story. Your truth does matter. You matter. And you are not alone.”
You won’t be able to watch without crying — but don’t miss it:
“To all the survivors out there, don’t let anyone rewrite your story. Your truth does matter. You matter. And you are not alone.”
— ESPYS (@ESPYS) July 19, 2018
Header image via ESPYs on Twitter.