What Courage Looks Like

There was a moving moment at this month’s ESPYs when survivors of sexual abuse by USA Olympic and Michigan State team doctor Larry Nassar received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. 140 women came up in unity, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a powerful show of solidarity. They filled the entire stage with their courageous presence. Earlier this year, Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison for multiple counts of sexual abuse and child pornography.

Three women spoke to the crowd, all of whom were standing, many in tears. The speeches were well rehearsed; their emotion-filled words and their tones solidly hit the mark. Their short speeches were poised, elegant and powerfully effective.

Their message was one of hope and encouragement, as they described how any adult could have stopped what happened to them and made a difference. They urged listeners to become more aware, to speak out, and to do their part to end this cycle of sexual abuse. They also thanked many of the people who played roles in bringing Nassar to justice.

Sarah Klein spoke first, sharing that she was Nassar’s first victim over 30 years ago. She spoke of the difficulty of this legal process for all the women, who had to repeatedly tell their stories “in graphic detail,” sharing horrible details while displaying great courage.

Tiffany Thomas-Lopez, a former softball player at Michigan State, spoke next. She talked of the tremendous toll that this process had taken on all the women’s lives. “The amount of loss we’re endured over the years is immeasurable, but tonight, we stand here, and it feels like we’re finally winning.”

Then Olympic gymnast and gold medalist Aly Raisman spoke, beginning with a strong POW! Statement: slowly counting off the years in which these women reported Nasser’s abuse, yet were ignored. She clearly had everyone’s attention as she spoke. “All we needed was one adult to have the integrity to stand between us and Nasser.”

All three women were terrific as speakers, too. They spoke slowly and clearly, took deep breaths when they needed to, were emphatic when they needed to be, and made their words heard. Raisman drove the message home when she said to people who might find themselves in situations similar to the ones faced by the women on stage: “Your truth does matter, you matter, and you are not alone.”

Wow. If you missed the presentation, be sure to watch it by clicking here.

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