(LOS ANGELES) — More than 140 survivors of abuse at the hands of disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar took the stage and made a statement that could impact countless lives for years at the ESPYs on Wednesday night.
Actress Jennifer Garner introduced the brave women and said, “We’re about to tell you a story that is difficult to hear.”
She spoke about when the dream of being an athlete can turn into a nightmare, but said the story needs to be heard, so “it never happens again.”
Then a powerful video let these young women speak their truth. One after another spoke about what this man did when they were 11, 12, 13 years old.
“It was something that I just dealt with,” one woman said of the unspeakable actions to which Nassar eventually plead guilty.
“The cycle [of abuse] was repeated for generations,” Garner says in the video, but then the women started to come forward, followed by dozens more.
After Nassar was finally arrested, one woman says, crying, “That’s when my life finally started to move again.”
Following the empowering piece, the 141 women at the event all took the stage to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award — a moment that will be talked about for decades.
“It is a privilege to stand up here with my sister survivors, as we represent hundreds more that are not with us tonight,” said Sarah Klein, who was victimized by Nassar 30 years ago.
Klein called tonight “a portrait of survival, a new vision of courage.”
“Speaking up is not easy … it’s grueling and it’s painful, but it is time,” she said. “As a survivor, I am here to say, if we can just give one person the courage to use their voice, this is worth it.”
Another victim added, “You cannot silence the strong forever.”
Then Aly Raisman listed off the the many years that women spoke up about Nassar’s abuse and then were told, “You are wrong.”
“For too long, we were ignored,” she said. “Too often abusers and enablers perpetuate suffering … to all the survivors out there, don’t let anyone rewrite your story. You truth does matter and you are not alone.”
Raisman appeared on “Good Morning America” the morning of the awards show to speak about what this honor means to her and the other survivors.
“Getting that award with this incredible army of survivors is very, I mean, it’s hard to put into words,” she said. “I don’t even know if it’s really sunk in yet.”
“We’ve all been through something really horrible, but we’re all gonna get through it together,” she added. “I think that’s such an empowering feeling — knowing you’re not alone.”
Nassar was sentenced in January to 40 to 175 years in prison for several counts of sexual misconduct. A judge later tacked on an additional 40 to 125 years.
“You are a doctor. You took an oath to do no harm, and you harmed over 256 women, and that is beyond comprehension,” Michigan Judge Janice Cunningham told Nassar at the time of his sentencing in February. “Locking up an individual so they can never harm anyone again and take away their freedom is an appropriate consequence.”
During his sentencing, more than 150 women and girls like Rasman gave statements in court and their accounts of the assaults.
Nassar had to sit there and listen to them all. Their voices were heard.
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