Raisman advocates for justice


Aly Raisman was welcomed to campus Thursday, Sept. 27 where she advocated against sexual abuse and shared her memories from the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics team. 

Washburn was one of many stops on Raisman’s schedule as the gymnast is making her way across the nation following the release of her book, “Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything,” which details Raisman’s journey and survival of sexual abuse.

Raisman began her discussion with her memories leading up to the opportunity to represent the U.S. in the 2012 Olympics.

“There’s really nothing like walking out into the arena and seeing people from all over the world and seeing the American flag,” Raisman said. “To know that you’re one of five girls out of all of the gymnasts in the country to be able to compete.”

The 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team, deemed the Fierce Five, was the first team to win gold on international soil during the 2012 Olympics in London, England. 

Unfortunately, there is also a long list of negatives that came from Raisman’s time with the U.S. gymnastics team. 

“We still haven’t even had a full independent investigation and the first reported incident of Larry Nassar was in 1997,” Raisman said. “It should take one person enough to come forward and for people to believe them and for people to understand.” 

Junior elementary education major Emily Guile expressed her feelings on the matter.

“I knew about the number of victims but the amount of time is almost more scary, like 21 years,” Guile said. “And that was the first record so who knows how long this has been going on, it’s scary, it’s terrible.” 

1997 serves as an example on societal views towards women being sexually abused. Although the allegations that are in relation to the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic teams have reached federal court rooms, we still see slow progression toward a possible resolution.

During Raisman’s interview, Associate Director of Admissions and moderator, Brett Johnson, mentioned his discontent with U.S.A. Gymnastics on the organization’s failure to release an apology statement to the victims involved. 

Raisman continued by describing her dissatisfaction with U.S.A. Gymnastics.

“I’m really not asking much from U.S.A. Gymnastics to just get rid of all the people that enabled him, that knew about it, that ignored it, that allowed it to continue… and cooperate with the investigations by releasing everything and being transparent with everyone,” Raisman said.  

According to an article published by the Chicago Tribune in May, Michigan State University has agreed to a $500 million claim settlement as Larry Nassar’s accuser count reached a total of 332 women and girls, in what has turned out to be the worst sexual abuse case in sports history.

Raisman argued that education is at the heart of the issue by placing an emphasis on the lack of knowledge by individuals in high positions of power as well as the simplicity of the issue at hand. 

“I don’t really think I’m asking for much, just for people to keep their hands to themselves,” Raisman said.

Federal allegations and court settlements have stemmed from a basic understanding that is constantly fed to our nation’s youth, which is keeping your hands to yourself. 

“It’s not that hard, it’s not that big of a deal, like all of this is about that… that some people just can’t seem to keep their hands to themselves,” said Anna-Marie Lauppe, junior psychology major. “Whenever you think about it on that level, it’s very juvenile.” 

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that Raisman, just like the other 331 victims, still awaits the answer they are searching for, which is how did all this spiral out of control?

“Our society enables abusers so if you are an abuser it’s not uncommon for you to have more than one survivor,” Raisman said. “It’s the same thing with college students… our society makes girls feel that if you go to a party and you’re drunk and you’re wearing a certain outfit then it is your fault. It is not your fault. It does not matter what you are wearing or what you had to drink… and it is not consent unless it’s a ‘yes.” 

Campus affairs director for WSGA, Sydney Fox, believes Raisman had wonderful things to discuss, and it was a powerful experience. 

“The one thing that stood out to me was the keep your hands to yourself… and I thought that message tied in so well with what we are doing with the consent talk and the bystander program in WU 101 classes,” Fox said. “It brought all of that full circle for me.”

Raisman suggested that bystander prevention may be the solution to stopping repetitive offenders or abusers. 

“If you see something, if you hear something, know that as a human being you have the opportunity to help somebody out, you have the opportunity to put a stop to it, and you have the opportunity to record it,” Raisman said. “As I said, if a guy is doing that to one girl then he’s been getting away with it for a long time and he will continue to get away with it unless someone steps in.” 

If you are unsure what your next steps should be when either you or someone close to you is experiencing traumatizing abuse, seek guidance. 

Washburn University’s bystander program was established in the fall of 2017 as part of new preventative measures that stemmed from a $300,000 grant that the university received back in 2015, according to an article by KSNT in 2016. 

In addition, as a result of the 2016 grant, Washburn University hired Shelley Bearman who is currently the project coordinator for sexual assault education and prevention on campus. 

“Find someone that will listen to you because there are people out there that do care… find someone who is educated, or that you trust, who will put an end to it,” Raisman said. “if it doesn’t feel right or it makes you feel uncomfortable, it probably isn’t right,” Raisman said.