Olympic athlete Aly Raisman talks survivor advocacy, her own experience in UNT lecture

Olympic athlete Aly Raisman talks survivor advocacy, her own experience in UNT lecture

Olympic athlete Aly Raisman talks survivor advocacy, her own experience in UNT lecture
November 20
13:28 2018

On Monday Olympic gold medalist gymnast Aly Raisman visited UNT as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series. In a question and answer session with Dean of Students Maureen McGuinness, Raisman discussed various topics including health and wellness, self-care, body positivity and the importance of advocating for sexual abuse victims.

A recurring theme of the lecture was survivor advocacy, as Raisman herself is a survivor of sexual abuse. She uses her platform to advocate for other individuals that may be dealing with the anguish of sharing their story.

“I don’t enjoy sitting up here and talking about it, but I think that it’s very hard for me to sit back and see how many people are in pain and how many people feel like they’re not being heard,” Raisman said. “If I can help one person decide to share their story or I can help one friend of a survivor realize that maybe what they said to them last week wasn’t supportive and that they can actually help them, then hopefully I can do that.”

While Raisman is appreciative of her position as an Olympic athlete and the platform it has given her, she said more focus should be placed on survivors who are not necessarily in the public eye but still want to share their stories.

“I also think there’s a lot of people that do speak up and they’re not being heard because they’re not an Olympic athlete,” Raisman said. “I would like to see, no matter who you are, that your story is being heard, just as equally. It doesn’t matter and it shouldn’t matter how well known you are, everyone has a story, everyone’s story is equally important.”

Raisman cited Princess Diana as the celebrity she would choose to have dinner with if able to and cites her work and impact on the world as particularly inspiring.

“Just all the incredible work she did, I feel like she went above and beyond,” Raisman said.“I’m very inspired by people that do something bigger than themselves and really make a big impact on the world and I know that she did.”

In the question and answer segment with Dean of Students Maureen McGuinness, she covered her favorite Olympics memories and addressed her experience as a survivor of sexual assault. Jordan Collard

Communication design junior Gabriela Pesqueira said she thought the lecture was great.

“I think she really emphasized how important it is to take care of yourself, especially for survivors of abuse and assault,” Pesqueira said.“I think that’s something that’s not stressed enough.”

Though she was grateful for the opportunity to hear Raisman speak, marketing junior Laura Sanford said she wished more questions pertaining to her gymnastics career had been asked, especially aspects of it others may be not be as familiar with.

“I wish [the interviewer] would have asked questions that maybe [Raisman] hasn’t been asked before,” Sanford said. “Even if you just know her from the Olympics, if you want to know more about her after hearing her you can Google those things. [The interviewer] should have asked questions and done her research more [to] know what she’s already been asked and what maybe people would want to know.”

For survivors of abuse that may be apprehensive about sharing their stories or are struggling to get the help or answers they need, Raisman encouraged them to continue fighting.

“Don’t stop until you get the answers that you want,” Raisman said. “I can tell you from experience, it’s not always easy. I reported my abuse in 2015 and I still don’t have all the answers, so I can completely relate.”

Raisman said she wants people to know that whether they are a survivor or otherwise, everyone has the power to help others.

“Just remember that we’re all going through something and never underestimate the power that you have to be a good person and to help other people,” Raisman said.

Featured Image: Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman spoke in the Coliseum Monday, Nov. 19 for the Distinguished Lecturer Series. Jordan Collard

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Alex Hall

Alex Hall

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