McKayla Maroney, an US Olympic gold-medalist in gymnastics, came forward today (Oct. 18) to share her story of repeated sexual assault during her time with the Olympic team.
The 21-year-old gymnast, inspired by the millions of #MeToo messages posted this week across social media, alleged on Twitter that a doctor for the US women’s national gymnastics team had molested her for years.
“It started when I was 13 years old, at one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas,” Maroney wrote. “And it didn’t end until I left the sport.”
Maroney wrote that the doctor, Larry Nassar, molested her under the guise that he was providing “treatment.” In her letter, she described the scariest night of her life as a 15-year-old, when she said Nassar gave her a sleeping pill for a long flight to Tokyo for a gymnastics event.
“The next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a ‘treatment,’” she said. “I thought I was going to die that night.”
Nassar pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges in June. And while he has been accused by more than 100 women and girls of sexual assault during his stint as a doctor for the gymnastics team, he has yet to be convicted. According to The Washington Post (paywall), he faces 22 charges in Michigan over allegations of sexual assault.
In sharing her story publicly, Maroney joins a national discussion that has thrust sexual harassment of women by men into the spotlight, exposing the systemic, pervasive, and routine sexual harassment of women—verbal and physical—as a widespread problem that crops up in daily life. Public conversation of the topic has dominated on websites such as Facebook, fueled in part by the explosive downfall of Hollywood media mogul Harvey Weinstein, and anger over the Access Hollywood tape that surfaced in 2016 that laid bare vulgar language used by US president Donald Trump to describe women.
As described by Maroney, “this is not just happening in Hollywood. This is happening everywhere.” In her message, the gymnast has called upon people, institutions, and organizations to be held accountable and have a zero-tolerance policy for abusers.
“Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long, and it’s time to take our power back,” she wrote.