As Hollywood stars flood the digital space with personal stories about the sexual misconduct they have suffered, Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney wants everyone listening to know such abuse doesn't just happen in Hollywood.
"Everyone's words over the past few days have been so inspiring to me. I know how hard it is to speak publicly about something so horrible, and so personal, because it's happened to me too," the 21-year-old gold medalist began in a letter shared on social media early Wednesday, inspired by the #MeToo viral Twitter movement. In her public statement, the former "Fierce Five" member accused Dr. Larry Nassar, who had served as the USA gymnastic team's doctor, of molesting her.
"I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things that I had to endure to get there, were unnecessary, and disgusting," she wrote. "I was molested by Dr. Larry Nassar, the team doctor for the US Women's National Gymnastics Team, and Olympic Team. Dr. Nassar told me that I was receiving 'medically necessary treatment that he had been performing on patients for over 30 years.'" Nassar, who has been accused of sexual assault by reportedly more than 100 women, is set to stand trial on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges.
"It started when I was 13 years old, at one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas, and it didn't end until I left the sport. It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was 'treated,'" she wrote in her public letter. "It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and It happened before I won my Silver. For me, the scariest night of my life happened when I was 15 years old. I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo. He'd given me a sleeping pill for the flight, and the next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a 'treatment.' I thought I was going to die that night."
In recalling the alleged experiences, she reflected on her early dreams of competing in the Olympics. "I remember watching the 2004 Olympics. I was 8 years old, and I told myself that one day I would wear that red, white, and blue leotard, and compete for my country. Sure, from the outside looking in, it's an amazing story. I did it. I got there, but not without a price," she said.
As she concluded her message, Maroney advised others to speak out and bring awareness to any abuse, hold people in positions of power accountable for their inappropriate behavior and have zero tolerance for "abusers and those who protect them."
"Is it possible to put an end to this type of abuse? Is it possible for survivors to speak out, without putting careers, and dreams in jeopardy? I hope so. Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long, and it's time to take our power back," she signed off. "And remember, it's never too late to speak up."
Following Maroney's statement, USA Gymnastics issued the following:
"USA Gymnastics admires the courage of those, like McKayla Maroney, who have come forward to share their personal experiences with sexual abuse. Because of their strength in coming forward, predators can be held accountable for their actions. We, like so many others, are outraged and disgusted by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused. We are sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastics career."
The statement continued, "We are strengthening and enhancing our policies and procedures regarding abuse, as well as expanding our educational efforts to increase awareness of signs to watch for and reporting suspicions of abuse, including the obligation to immediately report. USA Gymnastics, its members and community are committed to working together to keep our athletes as safe as possible."
Per NBC News, Nassar's attorneys could not be reached for immediate comment.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)