This is part of the #WomenWhoLead campaign! During Women’s History Month LiveYourDream.org is featuring powerful women who are making a difference in their fields, inspiring the next generation, and changing the world for the better. These fierce feminist icons advocate for gender equality, challenge sexism, fight the patriarchy, and empower women everywhere to live their dreams.
Who is Aly Raisman?
Chances are, you’ve already seen Aly Raisman tumbling across your TV screen. As team captain of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics teams, both of which won gold, Aly Raisman became a household name because of her athletic achievements. But Aly’s influence extends far beyond the bars and beam – she has been a powerful advocate for the #MeToo Movement.
Chasing Gold… and Justice
For almost a decade, Aly Raisman has been an elite gymnast. She first catapulted to international fame by representing the U.S. at the World Gymnastics Championships in 2010. In 2012, she made her Olympic debut at the London Games, and in 2016, she came back to the Olympics, winning the silver in the all-around. Aly is one of the most decorated American gymnasts, with six Olympic medals, four world medals, and three national titles to her name.
However, Aly is known for more than her sky-high Amanars and Arabian flips. Aly, who her teammates have described as a natural-born leader, has always been the girl who cheers on her fellow athletes. Her strength, resilience, and empathy for others are what helped her lead the United States to back-to-back victories — and they’re the same traits that have empowered her to stand up for sexual assault survivors.
In 2017, Aly was among the dozens of young gymnasts who revealed that Larry Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics, had sexually assaulted them. It was challenging for Aly and her teammates to come forward against Nassar, who was trusted by athletes and gymnastics officials alike.
Aly described USA Gymnastics as a “culture of abuse” – gymnasts were forced to follow strict training regiments and work tirelessly to achieve their athletic goals. Most had already sacrificed much of their childhoods for their gymnastics career and were too afraid to report Nassar, a powerful authority figure within USA Gymnastics. Others were young and trusting of Nassar, who claimed that the abuse was a part of his medical “treatments,” and they were unwilling to question his actions. Over the course of several years, the culture of abuse forced over a hundred survivors into silence.
As difficult as it was, Aly Raisman and her fellow gymnasts courageously spoke out about how Nassar had treated them. Aly directly confronted Nassar at his trial, delivering a powerful impact statement. She has become a victims’ rights advocate, giving speeches and interviews to raise awareness about sexual assault. She even founded “Flip the Switch,” a campaign to prevent child sexual abuse in sports.
Strength in Surviving
Aly and the thousands of other survivors who’ve spoken out against sexual assault are paving the way for future. They’re empowering the next generation to continue speaking out with the conviction that their voices will be heard.
Through her work, Aly has changed how the world views and responds to sexual assault. By sharing her stories, she helped show how difficult it is for survivors to report their abuse and say “no.” In cases of sexual assault, like Aly’s, there is often a power difference between the abuser and the victim that makes it challenging for the victim to speak out and find support. Aly has shown that people must not only work to prevent abuse but also support those who come forward with claims of sexual assault. Aly’s story sent off a shockwave throughout the world, and people are beginning to recognize the need to listen to others’ stories as well.
Throughout her life, Aly has truly embodied strength. At the age of 24, Aly has made her mark in both gymnastics and advocacy — and there’s no doubt that she’ll continue to make change in a multitude of ways.
ALICE AO — Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Alice is a high school student still searching for her place in the world. She enjoys reading all types of literature, writing short stories, solving math problems, and watching Gilmore Girls with her mom. Above all, she hopes that her words will help mold society into a more equal, inclusive, and accepting community.