Hundreds of survivors of Nassar's sexual abuse accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPN ESPYs
The moment was powerful: hundreds of survivors of ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse stepping on stage in solidarity to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPN ESPYs.
Photos of survivors were projected in the background and those on stage were holding hands while accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Survivors Sarah Klein, Tiffany Thomas Lopez and Aly Raisman spoke while accepting the award at last night’s ESPYs.
Here is what they 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.
“The abuse of Larry Nassar began 30 years ago with me. For 30 years, people at the United States Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University all placed money and medals above the safety of child athletes. 30 years until the work of Detective Lieutenant Andrea Mumford of the Michigan State Police Department and Angela Povilaitis, the assistant attorney general who prosecuted the case, finally putting our abuser away for life.
“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 greuling, and it’s painful, but it is time. As a mother, I am here to say that we must start caring about children's’ safety more than we care about adults’ reputations. And, as a survivor, I am here to say that, 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.”
Tiffany Thomas Lopez
“In my sport, softball, we typically measure ourselves by wins and losses. Well, the amount of loss that we’ve endured over the years is almost immeasurable, but tonight we stand here and it feels like we’re finally winning.
“There are a lot of conversations in our society that we tiptoe around, as if there’s something to avoid. I know in my life, I’ve seen people look that way at two issues extremely personal to me: race and sexual abuse. Sexual abuse claims victims in every race, showing no discrimination. Just like Arthur Ashe, I stand so very proud, representing not only minorities, but all of us as humans. The human race.
“I encourage those suffering to hold tight to you faith and stand tall when speaking your truth because I’m 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 Nassar’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.
“This past January, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina showed a profound level of understanding by giving us each the opportunity to face our abuser, to speak our truth and to feel heard. Thank you, Judge Aquilina for honoring our voices.
“For too long, we were ignored and you helped us rediscover the power we each possess. You may never meet the hundreds of children you saved, but know they exist. The ripple effect of our actions, or inactions, can be enormous, spanning generations. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this nightmare is that it could have been avoided. Predators thrive in silence. It is all too common for people to choose to not get involved. Whether you act or do nothing, you are shaping the world that we live in, impacting others. All we needed was one adult to have the integrity to stand between us and Larry Nassar. If just one adult had listened, believed and acted, the people standing before you on this stage would have never met him.
“Too often, abusers and enablers perpetuate suffering by making survivors feel that their truth doesn’t matter. To all the survivors out there, don’t let anyone rewrite your story. Your truth does matter, you matter and you are not alone. We all face hardships. If we choose to listen and we choose to act with empathy, we can draw strength from each other. We may suffer alone, but we survive together. Thank you.”