For a while, my social media news feeds were inundated with coverage of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse trials. Nassar was the USA Gymnastics and Michigan State Gymnastics team doctor for over twenty years. Athletes began reporting him dating back all the way to 1997, and yet it wasn’t until 2017 that allegations of his abuses were taken seriously.
It began with possession of child pornography charges over the summer that led to the discovery of a horrifying history of abuse. Over 150 women, and recently one man, came forward accusing Nassar of “treating” their injuries usually sexually invasive techniques. Reading and watching the testimonials of the hundreds of women who testified and recounted the abuse perpetrated at the hands of a doctor under the guise of treatment made me feel sick.
The thought of anyone being abused is a horrific one, but this case, in particular, hit home for me: I had been a gymnast for twelve years of my life. I grew up watching these incredible Olympic athletes compete. As a former gymnast, I appreciated just how demanding sport is. I understood how, despite mistreatment, these young girls would continue seeing a monster disguised as a doctor because they were told he would help them get to the Olympics.
But as we all know, women are strong. Since the trial has ended, so have the discussions about the case. However, Aly Raisman, one of the gymnasts who testified and was a part of the Fierce Five (the 2012 Olympic USA gymnastics team), is bringing the issue back into the spotlight. This time, however, it’s in a positive way with a new program called Flip the Switch.
Raisman was the team captain of both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gymnastics team. She has historically been lauded as a steady and confident leader. Her testimonial, which you can watch here, has been praised not only for being brave and powerful but also for calling out USA Gymnastics for overlooking and ignoring allegations against Nassar.
It’s only fitting that Aly would be the one to lead the charge in eradicating child sexual abuse in sports.
#FlipTheSwitch 42 million Americans are survivors of child sexual abuse. We MUST change that horrifying number. I urge u to go to https://t.co/C3tnm0hw4W. U have the power to make change. Here is my certificate of completion (Will personally sign yours if U complete the program!) pic.twitter.com/bHhgiF1m0k
— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) March 9, 2018
Flip the Switch, an initiative that’s part of the organization Darkness to Light, is specifically geared toward adults working in youth sports. It’s designed to help adults pick out signs of sexual abuse. The program is free to take and once completed, Aly sends a signed certificate of completion to you in the mail.
What happened with Larry Nassar is undoubtedly heinous. But it has shone a light on the prevalence of this issue and has sparked a change in the attention paid to coach-athlete relationships. Since the Nassar accusations, sexual abuse allegations in USA Swimming and have also surfaced. For all of the cases that are reported and actually taken seriously, there are surely countless more that are being swept under the rug.
It’s thanks to all the brave women who came forward during the trial that USA Gymnastics, and sports in general, are being forced to change. Hopefully, Flip the Switch is the beginning of the end of sexual abuse in youth sports.