At 16 years old, McKayla Maroney made the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. She and her teammates, known as the Fierce Five, won the all-around gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Maroney also won an individual silver medal in vault — and was eventually turned into a meme because of it. While being presented her silver medal, a photographer captured Maroney with an “unimpressed” facial expression:
— Rebekah McLeod Hutto (@RebekahMHutto) August 10, 2016
President Obama and McKayla Maroney are not impressed pic.twitter.com/BfQq7jRzQG
— Polyticks (@p0lyticks) August 6, 2017
In the years following her Olympic success, Maroney started coming into her own. Now, the 21-year-old is spending her time working toward a modeling and music career.
However, Maroney is in the news for a very different reason.
After dozens of women in Hollywood came forward alleging that famed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them, the hashtag “MeToo” went viral.
— mckayla (@McKaylaMaroney) October 18, 2017
Thousands of sexual assault survivors began sharing their own personal stories, revealing how big of a problem sexual violence is around the world. Early Wednesday morning, Maroney revealed she had also been molested at a young age.
The former gymnast wrote:
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.
People 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.
Maroney went on to say she was a victim of disgraced USA Gymnastics physician Dr. Larry Nassar.
— Athletic Business (@AthleticBiz) July 11, 2017
In December 2016, Nassar was arrested and later pleaded guilty to child pornography. The former doctor also faces 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, following the more than 60 allegations he molested young female athletes.
According to ESPN, Nassar allegedly deceived his victims into thinking the invasive medical exams he was performing on them were necessary. He has not yet been sentenced for any of his crimes.
Maroney continued her story by saying:
I was molested by Dr. Larry Nassar, the team doctor for the U.S. Women’s National Gymnastics Team, and Olympic Team. Dr. Nassar told that I was receiving “medically necessary treatment the he had ben performing on patterns for over 30 years.”
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.” It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and it happened before I won my Silver.
She then went on to describe the most traumatizing night she experienced with Nassar.
She was 15 years old:
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.
Now, Maroney wants to see a change, and she wants those who have been silenced by the powerful to get their voices back. She wrote:
Thing have to change…but how do we begin? I’m no expert, but here are my thoughts:
One: Speaking out, and bringing awareness to the abuse that is happening.
Two: People, Institution, Organizations, especially those in positions of power, etc. need to be held accountable for their inappropriate actions and behavior.
Three: Educate, and prevent no matter the cost.
Four: 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 dream 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.
Maroney also wants victims and survivors to know it doesn’t matter when the abuse, the harassment, or the assault took place — “it’s never too late to speak up.”
Maroney is the second Olympian to speak publicly about the abuse suffered at the hands of Nassar. Olympic Bronze medalist Jamie Dantzscher has also spoken out.