Content warning: Sexual abuse
On Sept. 15, Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles asked the Senate Judiciary Committee “How much is a little girl worth?” This question echoed one demanded by Rachael Denhollander in 2016 — the first woman to come forward about sexual assault at the hands of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
I will never forget hearing that story for the first time, and I believe that a lot of others in my generation feel the same. As the #MeToo movement continued to grow in fall 2017, many gymnasts came forward about their own abuse at the hands of Nassar.
I distinctly remember coming to the chilling realization that those gymnasts I had cheered on for years of Summer Olympics as a kid were competing through horrific abuse, many while they were still children themselves.
When people from my hometown find out that I cover sports in college, the first question I get asked is, “Where did that come from?”
I didn’t grow up playing any competitive sports, except for a brief stint as a soccer player on the “Orange Team” in kindergarten, and I didn’t even particularly care about them until I moved from Boston to Chicago in 2018. The Olympics were really one of the few major sporting events with which I remember actively being engaged.
There’s a whole slew of reasons why I decided to focus on sports reporting in college, but I’ll elaborate on perhaps the most relevant one. Just like anything in journalism, sports can connect to so many complex issues and topics off the field and outside of the locker room.
For example, this column gives me a unique space to explore the social implications that sports can have on how we go about the world. Case in point — the extreme bravery that these powerful gymnasts have displayed time and time again since the accusations against Nassar first became public.
That’s why I say that a little girl is worth everything. There are 45 million children who participate in youth sports across the country, and every single one of them deserves the opportunity to compete in a safe and supportive environment.
Again, I wasn’t necessarily among that group of children that participated in youth sports. I did, however, spend a decade of my childhood in the ballet studio, which can be a breeding ground for its own sort of intense competition.
There are millions of children in the United States right now who have the right to pursue their passions free from fear of abuse — no matter the extracurriculars they find joy in.
I was further driven to pen this column as the testimony from Biles, along with fellow gymnasts McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman, aligned with calls from Loyola students demanding the university hold students accused of sexual abuse accountable.
Survivors should be honored and uplifted, no matter if they’re a college student or a gold medalist. So to everyone reading who is a survivor, I want to remind you of how much you’re worth — and that’s everything.
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization and has no affiliation with Loyola. Their helpline can be reached at 800-656-4673.
Loyola students can also speak to a confidential advocate by calling “The Line” at 773-494-3810. Calling “The Line” will not trigger a formal report, but students who wish to file a report of sexual misconduct or abuse can do so by contacting the Office of Equity and Compliance through its website.