Aly Raisman is urging USA Gymnastics, and other organizations, to take steps to prevent sexual abuse in the sport

By Char Adams and Briana Draguca
January 26, 2018 11:25 AM
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Aly Raisman says she does not “feel like justice has been served” after disgraced former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing dozens of young girls.

The 23-year-old gymnast opened up about the headline-making sentencing in an interview with PEOPLE at the Aerie Real Role Models Campaign Launch event in New York on Thursday, and urged USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Association to take steps to prevent sexual abuse in the sport.

“They have to get to the bottom of what happened. And until we do that, and until there is an independent investigation, we can’t be sure this won’t happen again. So until I’m sure that these organizations are taking it seriously then there won’t be justice,” she says.

“But I don’t even know if you ever feel justice, because it’s never something you heal from. Abuse isn’t just in the moment, it’s for the rest of your life.”

Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK/Sipa

More than 150 women and girls have accused Nassar of assault, including gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas. Nassar pleaded guilty in November to several counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. On Wednesday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina of Michigan’s Ingham County Circuit Court sentenced the 54-year-old to 40 to 175 years in prison.

Raisman alleged last year that Nassar often touched her inappropriately and made her feel uncomfortable. She has since used her platform to speak out against sexual abuse and called for Nassar — and the organizations — to be held responsible for the molestation. Raisman has repeatedly called on the organizations to determine what exactly allowed Nassar to continue abusing the girls with no consequences for years.

“The most critical thing is to get to the bottom of what happened. We need an independent investigation. We need to figure out how this disaster happened. It runs very deep. I don’t understand how it happened and I want the answers,” she tells PEOPLE. “The culture of gymnastics also really has to change and even the USOC, they have to stop putting reputation, medals, and money over the safety of athletes.”

From left: Rachel Platten, Yara Shahidi, Aly Raisman and Iskra Lawrence at
Aerie/Neil Rasmus

As the scandal made headlines in recent years, Steve Penny stepped down from his position as USA Gymnastics president. Additionally, three USA Gymnastics board members resigned last week, and USA Gymnastics suspended former U.S. women’s national team coach John Geddert. Now, CNN reports that the USOC has asked all remaining members of the USA Gymnastics board of directors to resign.

Meanwhile, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon officially resigned from her position this week in the wake of the sentencing.

“The lack of accountability from all the organizations is just disgusting,” Raisman says. “It’s not right and if one person was abused, that’s too many and there’s been so many coming forward and we don’t even know how many are suffering in silence. So the organizations need to show that they care and they have not done so so far.”

In a statement last week, USOC officials issued an apology to Nassar’s victims:

“The purpose of this message is to tell all of Nassar’s victims and survivors, directly, how incredibly sorry we are,” CEO Scott Blackmun said in the statement. “We have said it in other contexts, but we have not been direct enough with you. We are sorry for the pain caused by this terrible man, and sorry that you weren’t afforded a safe opportunity to pursue your sports dreams.”

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In a recent statement, USA Gymnastics officials said that they have “and will continue to take specific and concrete steps to promote athlete safety, health and well-being and prevent future abuse by adopting and vigorously enforcing the USA Gymnastics Safe Sport Policy.”

Now, Raisman says that although the changes the organizations have made are inadequate — “at least people are listening.”

“I think that means a lot to the other survivors who also did not feel heard for awhile — the media was only covering the Olympians, which is unacceptable,” she tells PEOPLE. “So, now that they’re finally being heard and their statements are so incredibly powerful, they are creating change and I’m proud to be a part of that.”