LOS ANGELES – Aly Raisman has certainly found her voice.
The three-time Olympic gold medal gymnast has already appeared in Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit issue and in ESPN's 2015 Body Issue, and now she graces the cover of the latest Heroes Issue of ESPN's magazine.
She spoke with reporters at the Heroes Pre-ESPYS party on Tuesday in Los Angeles about finding the strength to speak out against sexual assault and coping with the memories of her encounters with her abuser.
“To be honest, when I spoke out I didn’t realize how many people can relate to my story,” she told reporters. “I feel like every single day I have survivors coming up to me whether I’m at the grocery store, whether I’m at the mall – no matter if it’s at the airport, wherever it is people are sharing their stories with me.
“I realize that there are so many people out there that can relate, so I want to continue to speak out and call attention to such an important issue. Right now I am just trying to take things day by day.”
Since publicly revealing she was sexually abused by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and detailing her experience, Raisman, 24, has become one of the many recognizable faces standing up to abusers and shaming them on an enormous level, something that she says caused her to close herself off from the outside world and limit her exposure on social media.
“Honestly, the last few months I feel like I’ve been posting less on social media than I have in a very long time because I feel like I’ve been so honest about very difficult things to talk about that certain aspects of my life like my relationship,” said Raisman. “I want to keep [it] more private just because you feel like when you speak out about being abused, it’s a very – it’s like an open wound that won’t heal. So other things, like stuff with my family I just want to keep private so it’s mine, you know?”
Raisman continued: “It just totally depends. It also depends on what stage I am in the recovery process – and right now some things just feel better keeping them private, and everyone is different. So, that’s just where I am right now.”
Although the six-time Olympic medalist has garnered greater support from her fans since opening up about her traumatic experiences with Nassar, she admitted that even she was caught off guard at the amount of attention and outpour she initially received and continues to get. She said being on the cover of ESPN's Heroes Issue is not something she takes lightly. The magazine hits newstands on July 20.
“I take the responsibility very seriously, and I am very, very honored. I still can’t believe I’m on the cover of ESPN and here at this party," Raisman told reporters.
“I mean, it’s just crazy. I can’t even wrap my head around it, but I’m very grateful and I take the responsibility very seriously and do everything I can when I speak out to not only speak out on behalf of myself, but hopefully other people as well.”
Meanwhile, as Raisman has taken time to reflect on her purpose as an athlete and sexual abuse survivor, she hasn’t let her advocacy stop her from continuing to be the bright, bubbly person she is.
“When I’m with my family and people that I’m very close with and feel comfortable with, I definitely let loose and have fun,” she said. “But, of course when speaking about this you have to be serious because there’s nothing fun about talking about this issue, but I’ve learned in your life you have to have balance, so I’m learning that.”
On Jan. 24, Larry Nassar was sentenced in Michigan state court to 40 to 175 years in prison after he was convicted on criminal sexual conduct charges. Nassar also received a federal sentence of 60 years in prison for possession of child pornography.