‘FIERCE’ METTLE TO SPEAK OUT

Rais­man book al­leges sex­ual abuse by USA Gym­nas­tics doc

Boston Herald - - NEWS -

Aly Rais­man’s de­ci­sion to bare her soul and re­veal the sex­ual abuse al­legedly in­flicted by her team doc­tor when she was a teen is the pin­na­cle of brav­ery.

I’m sick­ened by the pa­rade of preda­tors re­vealed in the wake of the Har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal. But it’s in­cred­i­ble to see the women — and men — coura­geously go­ing pub­lic.

Aly is Amer­ica’s sweet­heart, a three-time Olympic gold medal gym­nast and a role model to a le­gion of young girls. Now 23, Rais­man re­ports in her book, “Fierce,” be­ing re­leased to­day, that she was sex­u­ally as­saulted by Larry Nas­sar, the trusted team doc­tor for USA Gym­nas­tics.

The Need­ham na­tive was 15 when she was first treated by Nas­sar.

“It wasn’t un­til I started see­ing other doc­tors and ath­letic train­ers that I be­gan to re­al­ize that their meth­ods were far dif­fer­ent from Larry’s,” she wrote. “When I lay on my stom­ach to have my ham­strings worked on, tow­els were draped over my hips and but­tocks for pri­vacy and to en­sure that there was no in­ap­pro­pri­ate skin-to-skin con­tact. They never, ever crossed any lines in where they mas­saged.

“And there was never a mo­ment when their meth­ods made me un­com­fort­able. It was dif­fer­ent with Larry. I would lie on the ta­ble, my hands in­vol­un­tar­ily balling them­selves into fists as his un­gloved hands worked their way un­der my cloth­ing. ‘Treat­ment ses­sions’ with him al­ways made me feel tense and un­com­fort­able. I would grit my teeth,” she wrote, “try­ing to con­vince my­self that all this was part of the heal­ing process. The truth was he never made my in­juries feel any bet­ter, but I al­ways obeyed be­cause he had a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing the best doc­tor.”

Nas­sar, she wrote, would some­times close his eyes or seem out of breath.

“More than once I would make ex­cuses for his strange be­hav­ior,” she wrote. “‘He must be tired from a long day,’ I would think, and won­der why he made me so un­com­fort­able. I felt guilty for think­ing badly of some­one ev­ery­one else liked.”

More than 130 women have ac­cused Nas­sar of sex­ual as­sault.

“I’m so glad and proud of her to know that she didn’t think twice about be­ing iden­ti­fied as a vic­tim,” for­mer pros­e­cu­tor and vic­tim rights ad­vo­cate Wendy Mur­phy said of Rais­man. “Peo­ple look up to her, heroic in so many ways as a sym­bol of strength and suc­cess and for­ti­tude and de­ter­mi­na­tion. And when she speaks up, and says it hap­pened to me too, that means ev­ery­body can feel com­fort­able com­ing for­ward.”

It’s en­cour­ag­ing to see so many women com­ing for­ward. But it’s sad that this con­ver­sa­tion took so long to hap­pen.

AP FILE PHO­TOS

‘DIF­FER­ENT WITH LARRY’: Need­ham na­tive Aly Rais­man, seen at left dur­ing the 2016 Sum­mer Games, is ac­cus­ing for­mer USA Gym­nas­tics doc­tor Larry Nas­sar, above, of sex­ual abuse.

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