Aly Raisman Talks Healing from 'Triggering' Senate Testimony: 'This Is What Survival Looks Like'

“They don't realize when the door closes and we're back home, this is something that we still live with every single day,” the Olympic gold medalist tells PEOPLE

aly raisman
Photo: aerie

As an advocate for mental health and survivors of sexual abuse, Aly Raisman is learning the real meaning of balance.

The two-time Olympian and #AerieREAL Voices ambassador, 27, opened up to PEOPLE about how she's doing after recounting her sexual abuse while simultaneously using her platform to speak up for those who can't. As someone in the public eye, Raisman says she has to actively find ways to be present and still know when and how to step back.

"It's really important to have balance in your life because when you're fighting for something and trying to effectuate change, it can be a really long journey and there's a lot of ups and downs," she tells PEOPLE.

In November 2017, Raisman publicly spoke out about former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar's abuse and in January 2018, she confronted Nassar face-to-face in court when she made a powerful victim impact statement. Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison, after more than 150 women and girls claimed he sexually abused them over a 20-year span.

In September, Raisman — who was joined by Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols on a panel — spoke to senators calling for an investigation into the FBI, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), and USA Gymnastics and their handling of the investigation.

Since her remarks, Raisman says the past few weeks have been "really tough" and "hit me hard."

"Healing is a roller coaster, and there are certain moments where I feel like I take a few steps forward and then I take a lot of steps back," she explains. "And I definitely feel like testifying was really triggering for me, and I'm still kind of dealing with the effects of that … I think this is, unfortunately, what survival looks like."

U.S. Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled Dereliction of Duty: Examining the Inspector Generals Report on the FBIs Handling of the Larry Nassar Investigation, in Hart Building on Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

"I haven't really been feeling like myself or feeling well," Raisman continues, noting that she's been getting help from her therapist. "I think it's part of what people don't see, you know? They might see us for a few hours, and speaking for, I don't know, around 10 minutes, and they don't realize when the door closes and we're back home, this is something that we still live with every single day. And it's been really hard."

Raisman says "it's definitely gonna take me a while" to figure out how to heal while being a vocal advocate, understanding that "this is so much bigger than myself."

She's gotten support through her partnership with Aerie, who she says has created an environment that "builds communities and support systems," boasting the company's love for the same things she values and their ability to help her through tough times.

Raisman says that along with her support system, stretching, spending time with her dog Mylo — who she praises "saved her" — and participating in guided meditations have helped her maintain her mental health throughout the journey. But what has helped her the most is talking to friends who've gone through similar situations.

"I was texting some other friends that are also survivors of sexual abuse, and sometimes just having somebody who has been through something similar — and maybe they're in a better place in their healing at this time that I am — it just gives me something to hold on to and hope that this is just a moment and it doesn't mean it's going to last forever," the Olympian tells PEOPLE.

aly raisman

Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.

Talking to fellow survivors and sharing coping strategies is exactly what the three-time Olympic gold medalist did in her three-hour documentary, Aly Raisman: Darkness To Light — which premiered on Lifetime Sept. 24.

After the release of the documentary special, the former gymnast says she was shocked to learn that the National Sexual Assault Hotline had a 99% increase in calls, saying that the impact the film had was both "powerful" and "devastating."

"I feel proud that there were people that watched the show that felt comfortable talking to somebody and felt that they could go to somebody to ask for help," she explains. "But it also really shows me the need for more conversations around sexual abuse and sexual assaults and around mental health and just how many people out there are really struggling."

Julio Cortez/AP.

Moving forward, Raisman says she's hopeful specifically for the gymnastics world that change will happen and the up-and-coming gymnasts will have better experiences than she did.

She wants to "see more athletes feeling more comfortable speaking up and speaking out and making the sport a safer place," adding that the next generation of gymnasts is already full of great role models for that.

Raisman adds, "I want to see them happy and when they leave the sport, they feel really proud of their experience, and that they have really good memories from the sport."

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 connected to a certified crisis counselor.

Related Articles