As the Harvey Weinstein scandal continues to grow, so does the list of famous faces who have been a victim of sexual assault. The issue is more extensive than anyone could have anticipated, with stars not remotely related to Weinstein or the film industry coming forward to tell their shocking stories.
The latest to join the seemingly infinite list is McKayla Maroney, the American sweetheart (or sourpuss) of the 2012 London Olympics. At just 17-years-old, she won gold and silver as part of the “Fierce Five” US team who dominated the gymnastics in all disciplines that year.
Whilst her impressive gymnastics career is what made her famous, it was her unimpressed face on the podium of the vault finals that made her instantly recognizable to everyone across the globe. Unhappy with her silver medal, a teen Maroney made no attempt to disguise her disappointment.
The picture became a viral meme with Yahoo! listing it as one of the most shared images of 2012.
However, behind that moody face was a young girl hiding a horrible secret. Something that Maroney, now 21-years-old, has only had the strength to share in the wake of the Weinstein scandal.
“Everyone’s words over the past few days have been so inspiring to me,” she writes on her Twitter page, “I know how hard it is to speak publicly about something so horrible, and so personal, because it’s happened to me too.”
In a passionate tweet, which she shared with her 566,000 followers on Wednesday, the gold medal-winning world champion wrote of her own personal experiences with sexual abuse.
“Everyone should know that this is not just happening in Hollywood. This is happening everywhere. Wherever there is a position of power, there seems to be potential for abuse. I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things that I had to endure to get there, were unnecessary, and disgusting.“
“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’. It started when I was 13-years-old, at one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas, and didn’t end until I left the sport.”
“It seemed that wherever and whenever this man could find the chance, I was ‘treated’.
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 alone in his hotel room getting a ‘treatment’. I thought I was going to die that night.”
Dr. Larry Nassar, who served as the Olympic team physician from 1996 to 2015, is currently in prison after pleading guilty to the possession of child pornography in July. He is still awaiting trial on separate criminal sexual conduct charges, in addition to being sued by 125 women who claim he sexually assaulted them.
During hearings in June, witnesses testified that Nassar abused his power as team doctor to molest girls and penetrate them with his fingers, claiming that this was a “treatment” that helped spinal alignment. “He convinced these girls that this was some type of legitimate treatment,” the prosecutor said. “Why would they question this gymnastics god?”
Meanwhile, Maroney is retired from gymnastics after an injury which she sustained in September 2012. She competed for the last time in September 2013, alongside Simone Biles and Kayla Ross, before retiring to undergo knee surgery. Since her retirement, Maroney has found herself in controversial situations. For example, in 2014 she was allegedly part of the nude celebrity photo leaks.
Then, in May 2017 a video was posted to her Instagram account showing her dancing in a thong. Initially, it was presumed this video was posted by a hacker. However, Maroney confirmed that wasn’t the case and that she’d intentionally uploaded it. This was met with criticism from fans who viewed her as a role model to young girls. But, the gymnastics star was unapologetic, claiming that never signed up to be a role model.
In her empowering tweet, the gold medalist questions how an end can be put to sexual assault. “Things have to change…but how do we begin?” she asks. “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. And remember, it’s never too late to speak up.”
As the trial against Dr. Nassar continues, we applaud Maroney for coming forward with her story. Let’s hope that this wave of victims speaking out helps change the future with regard to sexual assault.