Stunning Display Of Courage Against Abuse At ESPY Awards
"We may suffer alone, but we survive together."
Over 100 survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of disgraced U.S. gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar were given a long standing ovation as they were honoured with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, in a moving highlight of the ESPY Awards.
Nassar, who was sentenced in January to life in prison, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting more than 250 women and girls under the guise of medical treatment.
The 141 young abuse survivors who attended the awards easily filled the stage and, in a confronting display of courage and unity, illustrated clearly for the first time the horrendous scale of Nassar's abuse.
The ESPY Awards -- short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly-- recognizes individual and team athletic achievements and was this year hosted by sports presenter and former NASCAR driver Danica Patrick.
Sarah Klein, Tiffany Thomas Lopez and Aly Raisman accepted the award on behalf of their "sister survivors", each delivering a powerful and confronting speech detailing their suffering, and their courage.
Klein, who identified herself as Nassar's first victim, praised the actions of the women and girls who told their stories of abuse through the trial.
"Make no mistake, we are here on this stage to present an image for the world to see. A portrait of survival; a new vision of courage," Klein said.
"Speaking up and speaking out is not easy, telling our stories of abuse over and over and over again in graphic detail is not easy. We're sacrificing privacy, we're being judged and scrutinized, and its grueling and its painful but it is time."
The former gymnast decried the inaction of adults who, for more than two decades, brushed aside the concerns of young victims and perpetuated the viscous cycle of abuse.
"As a mother I am here to say that we must start caring about children's safety more than we care about adults' reputations and as a survivor I am here to say that we can if we can just give one person the courage to use their voice, this is worth it," she said.
"If one more victim of sexual abuse feels less alone tonight, then our suffering has meaning."
Her sentiment was hammered home by Olympic champion and fellow survivor Aly Raisman, as she read out a list of ten separate years in which victims reported abuse at the hands of Nassar, only for nothing to be done about it.
“All those years we were told ‘you are wrong. You misunderstood. He’s a doctor. It’s OK. Don’t worry we’ve got it covered'," she said.
“To all the survivors out there, don’t let anyone else rewrite your story. You are not alone. We may suffer alone, but we survive together.”
In separate trials in the last year, Nassar was sentenced to 175 years behind bars for sexual assault of minors, 125 years prison for sexual assault, and 60 years for child pornography convictions.