Team USA gymnasts, including an abuse victim, clash over the role of clothing in sexual abuse

Team USA gymnasts, including an abuse victim, clash over the role of clothing in sexual abuse
Team USA gymnasts Aly Raisman (far left) and Gabby Douglas (second from right) had a disagreement on Twitter about sexual abuse. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

U.S. Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman tweeted that a woman’s attire should not be an issue in cases of sexual abuse, but one of her teammates publicly disagreed, before later deleting her rebuttal.

Raisman was one of more than 140 women who say they were sexually assaulted by a former team doctor under the guise of medical treatment.

Her tweet called for an end to victim-shaming, targeted at those who say women entice sexual criminals by wearing certain types of clothing.

Raisman’s message

“Just to be clear…Just because a woman does a sexy photoshoot or wears a sexy outfit does not give a man the right to shame her or not believe her when she comes forward about sexual abuse. What is wrong with some of you? AND when a woman dresses sexy it does not give a man the right to sexually abuse her EVER. Woman (sic) are allowed to feel sexy and comfortable in their own skin, in fact I encourage you all to wear what you feel good in. I will not put up with any woman or girl being shamed for wanting to wear a skirt, dress, etc. I do not tolerate it. Are we clear? Oh and one more thing. STOP VICTIM SHAMING. It is because of you that so many survivors live in fear.”

A teammate pushes back

Gabby Douglas, another high-profile gold medalist for Team USA, tweeted a reply that pushed back against Raisman’s view that what a woman wears doesn’t matter.

“However it is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy. Dressing in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd,” Douglas tweeted.

Another team member, Simone Biles, expressed disappointment at Douglas’s stance.

“Shocks me that I’m seeing this but it doesn’t surprise me…honestly seeing this brings me to tears bc as your teammate I expected more from you & to support her,” Biles wrote. “I support you Aly & all the other women out there! STAY STRONG.”

Douglas later removed the original tweet and posted an apology.

“I didn’t correctly word my reply & I am deeply sorry for coming off like I don’t stand alongside my teammates,” Douglas wrote. “Regardless of what you wear, abuse under any circumstances is never acceptable. I am WITH you. #metoo.”

A culture of abuse

Women’s gymnastics was revealed to have a culture of sexual abuse after the actions of former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State team doctor Larry Nassar were made public in 2015.

Nassar, who has been accused by more than 140 women and girls, has pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct and federal child pornography charges.

Nassar first treated Raisman when the gymnast was 15 years old. Allegations against the former doctor stretch back nearly two decades.

“I didn’t know anything differently,” Raisman said on “60 Minutes” of the abuse. “We were told he is the best doctor. He’s the United States Olympic doctor and the USA Gymnastics doctor, and we were very lucky we were able to see him.”

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