24-year-old gymnast Simone Biles, already a legend in the athletic world, will likely make history in the coming weeks as part of the USA’s Olympic team at the 2021 Games in Tokyo, Japan.
The gymnast has already had signature moves named after her, and knocked down records again and again. But long before she was a household name, Simone Biles and many of her teammates were victims at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar, the Team USA and Michigan State University physician who manipulated and sexually abused many gymnasts for years before the survivors of his destructive abuse came forward. Ahead of the forthcoming Olympic games, Biles has taken her own opportunity to open up about her sexual abuse at the hands of Nassar.
Simone Biles Opens Up about Abuse
Much of Nassar’s two-decades worth of abuse against his more than 150 victims occurred at the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas. Before its closure in 2018, the ranch was owned and operated by Martha and Bela Karolyi, gymnastic coaches who defected under the Romanian regime of dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. The ranch was not only a training center for elite gymnasts, but doubled as a facility for training the US Olympic gymnastics team. Nassar, in addition to his capacity as a physician for the athletic teams at Michigan State, worked at the ranch and abused many of his victims there, leading to its closure.
Larry Nassar abused more than 150 victims over two decades.
The Karolyis went on to be named in multiple lawsuits filed by former team members, who argued that the pair should have known and been aware of the abuse Nassar was perpetrating.
Consequently, the scandal resulted in Nassar’s life sentence in prison as well as a proposed $215 million settlement the US Olympic Committee will make to survivors, which Biles and Aly Raisman, another gymnast and victim of Nassar’s, were vocally critical of, saying the settlement amounted to little more than a coverup of a scandal which deserved an independent investigation.
Countless women, both gymnasts and other young girls who were part of Nassar’s abuse, gave testimony and victim impact statements during his trial, and in 2018, as part of a #MeToo post, Simone Biles named herself as a survivor and Nassar as her abuser, saying, “I am not afraid to tell my story anymore. I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar. For too long I have asked myself, 'Was I too naïve? Was it my fault?' I now know the answers 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 [USA Gymnastics], and others.”
For too long I have asked myself, "Was I too naïve? Was it my fault?"
Many fans have wondered how Team USA and USA Gymnastics will confront the coming Olympic games in the wake of a scandal which affected hundreds and tore Michigan State and Team USA apart from the inside. Simone Biles, and many others, have wasted no time in proving that years’ worth of abuse at the hands of a monster has had no lasting harm on their motivation and talent.
Biles’ Struggle with Depression
In a Facebook Watch series titled Simone vs Herself, Biles opens up for the first time since that 2018 #MeToo post about how Nassar’s abuse impacted her drive and her dreams of Olympic gold.
The athlete revealed that though she was at first unsure of what Nassar was perpetrating, she remembers turning to friends to ask if what he was doing was normal and okay. Thankfully, her friends supported her and encouraged her to acknowledge the danger she was faced with. Biles even says that she counts herself lucky because she “didn’t get it as bad” as her other teammates.
Biles also goes on to talk about the toll the abuse had on her mental health, specifically when it manifested in depression. She also alludes to passive suicidal ideation, saying that sleeping all of the time was “better than offing myself,” and that “sleeping was the closest thing to death” for her.
Sleeping all of the time was “better than offing myself.”
Biles, like many of her routines, manages to end on a high note, though. Though she opened up and was transparently honest about how the sexual abuse affected her, she noted that one of her goals is to be an advocate, and to inspire kids, whether they’re in sports or not, to believe in themselves.
You can find these inspirational words, and much more, on Biles’ series Simone vs Herself on Facebook.
In the aftermath of the destruction wrought by Larry Nassar and those who were essentially complicit in his abuse, critics have pointed out that Team USA and USA Gymnastics have been less than forthcoming when it comes to assisting survivors in their healing process, in what many assess is an attempt to save their own skin while giving as little information as possible.
As their athletes competed in the Olympic trials for a shot at going to Tokyo, USA Gymnastics remains in bankruptcy in an attempt to reach compensation and financial settlements for many of Nassar’s victims who have received no recourse, whether financial or otherwise. Though upper leadership swears that they have implemented new safeguards, which are intent on preventing the very things Nassar was able to accomplish for nearly 20 years, former athletes wonder if it will really be enough.
In the meantime, Simone Biles and her teammates will head to Japan to compete, likely returning to the US with a few medals between them – proving that not even the darkest or most pernicious forms of evil can dull the shine of hardworking, dedicated women.
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