The most powerful moment of the 2018 ESPY Awards on Wednesday, July 18, came when 141 survivors of disgraced doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse came together to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Many athletes in the audience were visibly emotional when Jennifer Garner presented the honor to Olympian Aly Raisman and her “sister survivors” on stage at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Former gymnast Sarah Klein, who said she was the first to be abused by Nassar 30 years ago, took the microphone to note that she and the others “represent hundreds more who are not with us tonight.”
“Speaking up and speaking out is not easy,” Klein continued. “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 it’s grueling and it’s painful, but it is time.”
Softball player Tiffany Thomas Lopez spoke next and gave a shout-out to Arthur Ashe, the late tennis player and human rights advocate whom the award is named after. “Just like Arthur Ashe, I stand so very proud, representing not only minorities but all of us as humans, the human race,” she said before encouraging others to “speak their truth.”
For her part, Raisman, 24, reflected upon her fellow survivors’ journey to justice. “1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. These were the years we spoke up about Larry Nassar’s abuse,” she said. “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. Be careful. There are risks involved.’ The intention? To silence us in favor of money, medals and reputation. But we persisted, and finally someone listened and believed us.”
The gymnast then thanked Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who was in the audience. Aquiline presided over the USA Gymnastics sex abuse case and sentenced Nassar, 54, in January to up to 175 years in prison after a week of impact statements in court from more than 150 survivors.
Raisman told Us Weekly exclusively in late January that she doesn’t believe Nassar was sentenced to enough time in prison. “It’s like he got one year for each person. Like, that’s not enough, you know what I mean?” she said. “He’s gonna die in jail, but any number is never enough.”
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