“I actually had somebody say something to me a couple months ago saying, ‘I don’t understand how you can complain that you were molested because you participated in Sport’s Illustrated Swim,’ ” the 23-year-old told PEOPLE Now.
Last month, the gold-medal winning gymnast delivered a chilling testimony in court about the abuse she and her fellow athletes endured at the hand of former Team USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing over 160 women and girls.
“I just don’t understand,” she continued, adding that it’s unfortunately very common for women to get blamed for their sexual assault. “I can’t even tell you how many people have told me that when they were raped they were asked, what were you wearing?”
“It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, it’s never ever okay,” she explained.
Raisman also added that part of the key to ending the cycle of abuse is for people to stop shaming women’s sexuality.
“As women, you know we’re always taught, in my opinion, to be ashamed of our bodies and everyone’s always telling us [that] it’s better to cover up,” she said.
But Raisman added “women do not have to be modest to be respected.”
“You can be sexy, you can be wearing a sexy bikini, you can still be smart, powerful, have a voice,” she continued. “You can still be advocating for change, you can still be a good person, you can still be respected.”
“And I don’t know why some people think that if a woman is sexy and wearing a sexy outfit that it’s okay to abuse her. You should be able to walk down the street late at night in an alleyway by yourself wearing whatever you want and not have any risk of being attacked,” she said.
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Raisman, who posed for SI Swim’s new franchise “In Her Own Words” with the phrases “trust yourself,” “live for you” and “abuse” is never okay painted on her body had previously told SI Swim, “I would like to remind everyone that being a survivor is nothing to be ashamed of, and going through a hard time does not define you.”
“I hope that we can one day get to a point where everyone realizes that women do not have to be modest to be respected. We are free to draw confidence and happiness in our own way, and it is never for someone else to choose for us or to even judge us for that matter,” she continued.
She went on to add that taking part in “In Her Own Words,” alongside models Sailor Brinkley Cook, Paulina Porizkova and Robyn Lawley, is a reminder that every one has personal hurdles to overcome.
“For me, ‘In Her Own Words’ serves as a reminder that we are all humans, we are all battling something, and it is OK to not be OK,” she shared. “We are not alone and we need each other.”