Last Thursday was the 2018 Champions for Children Breakfast supporting the Children’s Advocacy of Denton County. Aly Railman was the featured speaker. You probably remember her, she was the first American to win the gold in the floor exercise and a silver in the All-Around competition. But another event also makes Aly a memorable individual.
She survived sexual abuse in the hands of Larry Nassar. Larry was accused of molesting over 250 girls from as far back as 1992. He was a serial child molester…and he was the USA Gymnastics national team doctor.
I found Aly to be a disagreeable person.
She felt like USA Gymnastics and the Olympic committee did a poor job of supporting the girls, had issues with how the investigation was conducted by the police, and was outraged that a doctor would molest the very girls he was supposed to be caring for. Aly explained how she’s gone through multiple therapists without finding one that could help her. She failed to answer a lot of questions that the interviewer asked and kept going back to the same themes.
Now, before you attack me for calling her disagreeable… Let me explain.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book David and Goliath, said “Society frowns on disagreeableness. As human beings we are hardwired to seek the approval of those around us. Yet a radical and transformative thought goes nowhere without the willingness to challenge convention." It’s clear that Aly not only wants to change convention, she insists on it.
Aly is incredibly frustrated.
Shockingly, when she reported the sexual abuse, Aly was told by USA Gymnastics that they were handling it. Furthermore, she said she felt ‘threatened’ to be quiet and not discuss what had been happening. But they did not report it immediately, and Nassar still had the opportunity to molest other gymnasts. Steve Penny, who headed USA Gymnastics allegedly tampered with evidence regarding the case and eventually resigned. There were others involved who knew or suspected what was going on—and they’re still part of USA Gymnastics.
Aly was betrayed.
One would assume that law enforcement would have been immediately involved but that wasn’t the case. This article in the Washington Post questioned why, with so many allegations of sexual assault and possible cover-up, the issue was treated as a ‘internal’ inquiry. Sally Jenkins, the author of the article, asked, “Where are the prosecutors and attorneys general of those states, and why aren’t they investigating the failure to report and whether it led to other preventable crimes?” and “And where in the world is the FBI?”
Aly lost faith in the legal system.
Aly spoke about Nassar and how he got away with it—the man was intelligent. As Rachel Denhollander, one of his victim’s said, “He has the personality, he has the skill, he has the knowledge, and he’s using that to prey on people.” Nassar sent photographs of the girls to their parents, becoming a link in families forced into separation while their children trained. He brought food to girls too busy to eat and claimed to ‘have their back’ when they needed help. He was granted such trust that he actually performed bogus ‘pelvic massage therapy’ on girls with their parents in the same exam room.
Aly lost trust in doctors.
Aly explained how she’s been in therapy for a long time and has been through several counselors so far. I wasn’t surprised. I imagine they don’t understand what they’re trying to treat. Aly doesn’t have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because this is not a past event for her…she’s still living it. She travels around the country talking about it, educating people, insisting that the curtain be pulled back and everyone take a hard look at what has been going on.
I would be defeated and demoralized if I were Aly.
But instead, Aly’s forcing us to listen. Gladwell said disagreeable people are “willing to take social risks—to do things that others might disapprove of.” But maybe you still don’t like that term disagreeable? What about another word to describe her…