Aly Raisman: ‘Leotards r not the problem’ in cases of sexual abuse

Image: Christopher Polk/Getty Images 

Aly Raisman is tired of victim-shaming over clothing choices. 

The U.S. Olympic gymnast tweeted on Sunday that “Leotards r not the problem,” calling out critics of the gymnastics uniform for victim-shaming and “implying survivors should feel it’s their fault.” 

Raisman, an outspoken activist for survivors of sexual assault, also called out enablers of abuse against children and young people, saying, “The real problem is the pedophiles out there and the adults who enable them.”

Raisman has fiercely campaigned and continually spoken out against against systemic sexual abuse in the sport of gymnastics. The two-time Olympian testified against former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar, who abused Raisman and hundreds of other female gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment. Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexual assault. After the sentencing, Raisman released a list of demands for the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, calling for transparency during its investigation into how the abuse happened.

On Sunday, she encouraged her Twitter followers to learn more about victim-shaming, posting links to Flip the Switch, an organization dedicated to preventing sexual abuse in sports. 

As one Twitter user pointed out, gymnasts wear leotards for safety, not just for aesthetic reasons during performance.  

Others on social media argued that some gymnasts may be more comfortable in less revealing clothing. One reminded them that although athletes should have a choice in attire, many people were missing the point of Raisman’s tweet: Children should be able to train in a safe space where they’re protected against abuse and encouraged to speak out against sexual predators.

Sadly, it’s not the first time Raisman has dealt with victim-shaming for clothing choices — she even battled it from her own teammates. 

In November, Raisman tweeted that women “are allowed to feel sexy and comfortable in their own skin.” Fellow USA Gymnastics teammate Gabby Douglas received some heavy backlash when her response to Raisman appeared to victim-shame women for their clothing choices. In a now-deleted tweet, she said, “It is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy. dressing in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd.”

Olympic gold medalist and fellow Team USA gymnast Simone Biles posted a screenshot of the tweet, commenting that she wasn’t surprised by her teammate’s remarks. 

“Honestly seeing this brings me to tears bc as your teammate I expected more from you & to support her,” Biles wrote. Douglas later apologized for her comment, and wrote that “regardless of what you wear, abuse under any circumstance is never acceptable.” 

Since then, Raisman has been a staunch advocate for women wearing what they want — in February, she posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition with the words “women do not have to be modest to be respected” written down her body, and “survivor” written across her chest. 

“The female body is beautiful and we should all be proud of who we are, inside and out,” she wrote in a note. 

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