Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman said last week that she didn’t know whether she would take the stand to deliver a victim impact statement at the sentencing of her abuser, former team doctor Larry Nassar, who has pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexually assaulting and abusing young girls under the guise of providing medical treatment.
But Friday, Raisman followed the 70 others who had come before her and addressed Nassar directly.
Courtrooms see their fair share of drama, but Raisman’s blistering speech deserves to be examined in detail, both as a searing takedown of the man who assaulted her and as a call to action to fix the broken system that allowed Nassar’s prolific abuse to occur for so long. In fact, by the time Raisman finished her 14-minute statement, the court had erupted in cheers.
Raisman’s 10 most powerful lines are below.
1. “Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing.”
As Raisman said this, she raised her head high and looked Nassar square in the eyes, her expression conveying both utter fury and absolute dignity.
2. “I didn’t think I would be here today. I was scared and nervous. It wasn’t until I started watching the impact statements from the other brave survivors that I realized I, too, needed to be here.”
Throughout her statement, she made sure to repeatedly emphasize that she is just one of many who were abused by Nassar, and she praised the more than 70 others who have also given impact statements to the court (in all, a total of 120 women are expected to speak about Nassar’s abuse, according to prosecutors). Raisman is one of the most recognizable members of the US gymnastics team, but she never stops emphasizing that each woman’s voice matters equally. They are, she said, “an army of survivors.”
3. “Larry, you should have been locked up, a long, long time ago. The fact is, we have no idea how many people you victimized, or what was done or not done that allowed you to keep doing it, and to get away with it for so long.”
Raisman also made sure to point out that many of Nassar’s victims might never be known. Note the way in which she repeatedly directly addresses him, unflinchingly, by name.
4. “I am here to face you, Larry, so you can see I have regained my strength, that I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor.”
This was the first and only time Raisman used the word “victim” in relation to her or anyone else. The semantics here speak for themselves.
5. “As for your letter yesterday, you are pathetic to think that anyone would have any sympathy for you. You think this is hard for you? Imagine how all of us feel.”
Here, Raisman directly addressed a letter Nassar wrote – parts of which were read to the court Thursday – in which he asked to be excused from four days of victim impact statements as he could not “mentally” handle it.
6. “Treatments with you were mandatory. You took advantage of that. … Lying on my stomach with you on my bed insisting that your inappropriate touch would help to heal my pain. The reality is you caused me a great deal of physical, mental and emotional pain. You never healed me. You took advantage of our passions and our dreams.”
Consider the bravery it takes to recount these traumatizing details in front of a room of people, let alone while looking at the perpetrator of these crimes in the eye.
7. “You already know you’re going away to a place where you won’t be able to hurt anybody ever again. But I am here to tell you that I will not rest until every single last trace of your influence on this sport has been destroyed, like the cancer it is.”
She made an important point here – noting with disgust that Nassar had sat on advisory boards and committees that had designed policies on how to protect athletes from harm. She “cringed,” she said, to think that his influence remains in gymnastics, and vowed to eliminate his input forever.
8. “I have represented the United States of America in two Olympics and have done so successfully. And both USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee have been very quick to capitalize and celebrate my success. But did they reach out when I came forward? No.”
Raisman slammed the groups who she said had failed to protect her and others who endured Nassar’s abuse. She also accused USA Gymnastics of “rotting from the inside.”
9. “If we are to believe in change, we must first understand the problem and everything that contributed to it. Now is not the time for false reassurances. We need an independent investigation of exactly what happened, what went wrong and how it can be avoided for the future.”
Raisman emphasized repeatedly that Nassar being sent to jail was not enough. She called on both USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee to investigate how her abuser’s behavior was allowed to go on for so long. She pulled no punches with what she said was USA Gymnastics’ repeated failings to acknowledge the problem, saying that even though Nassar’s crimes have been revealed, they still had “the nerve to say the very same” things they’ve said all along.
10. “My dream is that one day everyone will know what the words #MeToo signify. But they will be educated and able to protect themselves from predators like Larry so that they will never ever, ever have to say the words, ‘me, too.’”
The courtroom burst into applause.