Aly Raisman, the second most decorated American Olympic gymnast, sat down with MU professor Tina Bloom at the Missouri Theatre on April 18. Raisman answered the audience’s questions about her gymnastics career and her current work with the organization Darkness to Light to create a video to help people recognize the signs that a child is experiencing sexual abuse.
To start the event, Raisman walked onstage alone to give a 15-minute introduction. She explained her focus on gymnastics growing up and how she learned to use her competitive side to ease her anxiety and boost her confidence.
“People think that I was born with this talent, but I was actually the worst in my classes growing up,” Raisman said at the beginning of her speech. “I was always the last one to get a skill. I learned early on not to compare myself with other people since you’re always competing against someone in gymnastics.”
Taking a year off after the 2012 Olympics, Raisman said the hardest part coming back was regaining her confidence.
“In the 2010 World Championships, I fell during the all-around final,” Raisman said. “In 2011, I fell in the all-around final. After 2012, I didn’t compete in the World Championships until 2015, the worst of my life. Finally in Rio, I focused on myself and ended up getting my all-around medal, which was very exciting.”
After her introduction, Raisman was joined onstage by Bloom, an associate professor at the Sinclair School of Nursing. Bloom introduced herself and started a Q&A by asking questions that students had submitted. The questions focused on Raisman’s time at the Olympics and her experience at the Larry Nassar trial earlier this year. While Raisman explained how she felt, she was unapologetic when talking about how USA Gymnastics knew about Nassar’s repeated abuse of young athletes yet continued to let him work as a gymnastics doctor.
“It’s still a disaster the way our society handles abuse,” Raisman said. “I don’t think you ever get over [being abused], and I don’t think you should.”
Raisman said victims of abuse should continue to insist that all of their questions regarding abuse are answered.
“When you are a survivor of abuse, you have a hard time speaking up,” Raisman said. “We still don’t have all of the answers. There should’ve been an investigation years ago even if it was just one person [coming forward].”
Now, Raisman uses her new book, Fierce, to communicate with fans about how they can feel more confident in themselves and to also confront the issue of child abuse.
“I wanted it to be easy enough for a 6-year-old to read with their parents,” Raisman said. “I spent a lot of time on the book because I wanted people to realize that life is a journey.”
Raisman finished the Q&A by taking questions from the crowd, many focusing on how to confront their friends about their personal abuse experiences and how to help others when they speak up about past abuses. She also emphasized that her work with Darkness to Light has helped her cope.
“It’s an empowering feeling to know that you’re helping someone else,” Raisman said. “The more people that are supportive, the more that we can go forward.”
Edited by Brooke Collier | firstname.lastname@example.org