Since last summer when the ex-gymnast Rachael Denhollander accused Larry Nassar, the former physician for the US women’s gymnastics team, of sexual assault, many other athletes have broken their silence about sexual abuse.
After Nassar was arrested for possession of child pornography, now there are more than 180 women filing lawsuits against him.
Recently, London Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman also stood up. She did an interview with TV news program “60 Minutes”, talking about how she realized she was a victim of sexual assault.
Like most of the gymnast victims, she started training and interacting with Nassar at a really young age, without any understanding of what sexual assault is.
In 2015, USA Gymnastics hired investigators because of a coach’s suspicion over Nassar’s behavior. At the time, Aly told the investigators, “Yeah, he did touch me in a strange way and I felt uncomfortable… but he was a good man and was nice to me… I guess he didn’t mean it. He really cares about me.”
She only began to reexamine the whole event later after the investigators left, and realized she had been violated for years.
Nassar had been very clever and gained athletes’ trust by grooming them. Unfortunately, the grooming process was used as an opportunity for sexual abuse.
When groomers have a target, they will start befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child or adolescent, and sometimes the person’s family, in order to gain their trust.
They will pretend to be a nice person, who will take care of, help, praise, accompany and listen to them. Gaining the trust is, in fact, to gain control. Given such atmosphere, it often becomes difficult to expose groomers even after sexual assaults happen.
Nassar was definitely a smart groomer who knew how to gain people’s trust, understand people’s mind and manipulate their emotions. He didn’t get exposed for more than 20 years.
Aly also said, “That’s why I did this interview. I want everybody to understand one thing, that even if someone is nice to you, even if the whole world said he is a great guy, no one should make you feel uncomfortable.”
To protect yourself does not mean to suspect everything or everyone around you, but you should bear in mind that it is you who should always have absolute sovereignty over your body.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 29
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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