Why was it ignored? Simone Biles’ sexual assault statement asks familiar questions

Why was it ignored? Simone Biles’ sexual assault statement asks familiar questions

Simone Biles’ statement overnight declaring she too was a victim of Larry Nassar, the former doctor currently facing sentencing for sexually abusing young girls and women, included a simple question that must require some complex answers.

How was the abuse affecting so many able to go on for so long?

Who were the people who enabled it, and continued to ignore it?

They’re questions we’ve seen asked in Hollywood, in the Australian media and entertainment industries, and in politics internationally.

They’re questions also asked quietly between women in all sorts of industries and situations. Unfortunately for these women – the majority of women who’re sexually harassed or assaulted in a place of work, and many others who were abused while underage and in the care of people they were supposed to trust – such questions may never be heard more publicly, or make media headlines.

But statements like Simone’s do help. They continue to get women talking, sharing stories, whispering warnings and potentially preventing other vulnerable girls and women from ever ending up in such situations.

In Biles’ case, she says she was the victim of a man once believed to be a respected doctor. A man female gymnasts, while spending hours a day training and dedicating their young lives to a dream only a tiny handful would ever actually be able to fully embrace, were told to trust.

More than 140 women have come forward making such claims, including high profile athletes like Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney. A Michigan state court is currently hearing victim impact statements, with Nassar due to be sentenced after pleading guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct.

In the past few hours, a number have already shared powerful words in front of Nassar. They’ve told how their lives were shattered. One mother told how her daughter spiralled out of control and eventually suicided in 2009, following abuse she suffered at the hands of Nassar.

Kyle Stephens was the first to speak early this morning, saying she was abused repeatedly by Nassar from the ages of 6 to 12.

“Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don’t stay little forever,” she said. “They grow into strong women that … destroy your world.”

Simone Biles, an Olympic gold medallist who became the face of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, published her statement on social media, saying that she was speaking out after hearing the brave stories of her friends and other survivors, and that she was no longer afraid to tell her story.

Posting the statement with the comment ‘Feelings… #MeToo’, she said Nassar’s behaviour was “unacceptable, disgusting, and abusive”, especially coming from somebody that she was told to trust.

“I am much more than this. I am unique, smart, talented, motivated, and passionate,” she wrote. I have promised myself that my story will be much greater than this and I promise all of you that I will never give up.”

She said she had blamed herself, asking if she was too naïve, if it was somehow her fault. “I now know the answer to those questions. No. No, it was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others.”

USA gymnastic released a statement in response to Biles’ note on social media.

“USA Gymnastics is absolutely heartbroken, sorry and angry that Simone Biles or any of our athletes have been harmed by the horrific acts of Larry Nassar,” it read. “We are our athletes’ advocates. USA Gymnastics will continue to listen to our athletes and our members in our efforts of creating a culture of empowerment with a relentless focus on athlete safety every single day.”

For many such athletes, it’s too late.

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