To Aly Raisman, her withering words to Larry Nassar at his sentencing hearing for sexual abuse last month were of a piece with her decision to pose for this month’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Both were about empowerment, of moving past victimhood by “standing tall” and regaining “power and voice.”
Some, though, have taken a more negative view of Raisman’s appearance in the magazine, for which she posed nude with phrases such as “Trust yourself,” “Live for you” and “Abuse is never okay” written on her body. It was “devastating,” the gold medal-winning gymnast recently said, to be called a hypocrite for her decision.
“I actually had somebody say something to me a couple months ago, saying, ‘I don’t understand how you can complain that you were molested, because you participated in Sports Illustrated swimsuit,’ ” Raisman, 23, told People Now.
“It doesn’t matter. I just don’t understand and it really makes me — it’s devastating,” she continued. “I can’t even tell you how many people have told me that when they were raped, they were asked, ‘Well, what were you wearing?’ It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. It’s never, ever okay.”
Raisman was among more than 250 girls and women to accuse Nassar of sexually abusing them over at least two decades as a team physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. That group includes a number of other Olympic gymnasts, including McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles, and nearly 160 girls, women and parents joined Raisman in confronting Nassar as he was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.
Joining Raisman in Sports Illustrated’s “In Her Words” feature for its swimsuit issue were models Paulina Porizkova, Robyn Lawley and Sailor Brinkley Cook. “Women do not have to be modest to be respected — Live for you!,” Raisman said in an Instagram post in which she shared one of her SI photos.
Before Nassar’s sentencing hearings, two of which took place in Michigan courts and one of which ended with a federal judge giving him 60 years in prison for child pornography, Raisman had emerged as a vehement critic of USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee. She has frequently accused the organizations of not doing enough to protect vulnerable young athletes and of only caring about “medals, reputation, and money.”
In her lengthy statement last month in a Michigan courtroom, Raisman had some sharp words for USA Gymnastics and the USOC, but she trained most of her contempt on the 54-year-old Nassar, letting him know she was “no longer a victim” but “a survivor.”
“Imagine feeling like you have no power and no voice. Well, you know what, Larry? I have both power and voice, and I am only beginning to just use them,” she said (via NBC Sports). “All these brave women have power, and we will use our voices to make sure you get what you deserve: a life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors.”
More recently, as Raisman shared photos online from her SI sessions, she has mostly gotten replies praising her beauty and resolve. However, she has fielded some critical comments, including these:
- “You have to be modest and be clothed to be respected and taking your clothes off sends bad example for younger girls who looks up to you.”
- “Sure, you have the choice to wear whatever you feel good in, but you can’t then demand others to regard you highly, regardless of how you present yourself.”
- “You’re supposed to be a role-model for women. Strong women don’t do this to their bodies.”
- “Any female, who has been sexual abuse[d]. Wouldn’t pose nude and have the world to see.”
“You can be sexy, you can be wearing a sexy bikini, you can still be smart, powerful, have a voice,” Raisman told People Now. “You can still be advocating for change, you can still be a good person, you can still be respected.”
“And I don’t know why some people think that if a woman is sexy and wearing a sexy outfit, that it’s okay to abuse her,” she added. “You should be able to walk down the street late at night in an alleyway by yourself wearing whatever you want, and not have any risk of being attacked.”
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