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Trinea Gonczar, a former gymnast and now a sexual assault advocate, was abused by former Olympic doctor Larry Nassar.
Simone Biles has done more for survivors than she'll ever know: she's shown it's OK to be human.
Thank you, Simone, for redefining what support should look like.
My first gut instinct when seeing Simone Biles walk out on the floor with the other team USA gymnasts was: something is off.
It was on her face. It was in her eyes. The typical bubbly, smiling Simone Biles was struggling.
Her name was and is synonymous with these Olympic Games. But even the GOAT - the greatest of all time - of a sport, and the single athlete carrying the hopes of a nation, is human. She was simply misaligned.
The one thought I had going over and over in my mind was, "Please don't let her get injured."
I've been hesitant to write this piece because I am not Simone Biles, and I'm not competing in the Olympics. I am a former gymnast, a fellow survivor of the former Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar, and now an advocate for survivors of sexual assault.
But then the opinions came flooding in. Everyone was wondering: how could this happen? Could it be the pandemic?
That nervous feeling I felt brewing as Simone stepped onto the floor only grew as the noise reached a deafening crescendo.
I reached a point where I had to write, to tell Simone: I see you, and thank you. I don't know what it's like to be you, but I understand the maddening strain of everyone's opinions. I remember, when I testified against Larry Nassar in 2018, enduring endless opinions on social media and in the news about my weight, my hair, my face, my voice - even me sniffling while I cried as I spoke was a conversation.
I've had a glimpse into what it's like when everyone wants you to represent one thing, for your entire being to fit into a definable box, when all you want is the space to be human.
I know what it's like to have an identity thrust upon you
On January 19, 2018 I went from Jane Doe B 43 to a publicly known survivor of sexual assault when I presented my impact statement in court in front of my abuser, and to cameras streaming globally.
I became known as the girl that "broke" Larry Nassar.
He'd sat stoic and unflinching through 80 impact statements, until I took to the stand - a family friend he'd known for 30 years - and he broke down sobbing. My name and face were everywhere, from Al Jazeera News, the BBC, and World News Tonight, as the girl who made the monster a human.
In that moment, everything in my life changed.
Every day is a balance, but that doesn't make you weak
What the world didn't see was what happened next.
For most victims and survivors, every day after you recognize what happened to you is a balance. You're dodging your triggers and acting like everything is fine, when sometimes it's not.
Assault isn't like an illness that you can beat. It's always something that is there, sitting on your shoulder.
I can be in the most powerful situation, where I'm prepared to be the best of the best, and I can still be the girl over the toilet, throwing up, crying my eyes out and hoping that nobody can hear me because I don't want anyone to know I'm struggling.
I've been that girl, and I know I will be that girl again. I am that girl.
But nobody likes to feel, no matter how much of a spokesperson you are, that above all else you are a victim; that it defines who you are and it's a handicap holding you back.
Now, having supported survivors of sexual assault for three years at Avalon Healing, I can tell you so many other victims and survivors who are not Olympians, who are not OK, need time off because they are not in the right headspace.
But they can't get it - they have to fight with their employer to get paid leave. In many cases, they just don't ask for it because, while everyone else may think of you as brave or at least functional, you think of yourself as failing in life.
We need to redefine what support in sport looks like
I, too, get sick of hearing about our perpetrator and our case.
My arms started trembling and the blood in my body began to boil three weeks ago, days before the Olympic Games began, as I read the report of the cover up on Larry Nassar by the FBI. I didn't ask for that trigger to come into my life while I'm trying to work, live through a pandemic, and raise a three-year-old and a one-year-old.
I can't imagine the weight of being the GOAT of gymnastics, representing the United States Gymnastics Association (USAG) and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) - organizations that failed to protect our gymnasts from Larry Nassar, as many gymnasts, including Simone, have said in recent weeks.
I was sick to my stomach hearing Simone being asked time and again to explain the weight of the stress she was feeling, and Aly Raisman say that she still didn't trust USA Gymnastics to protect our athletes from harm. I sit here in true wonder while watching all of the talented athletes giving everything in their bodies and souls for their countries and governing bodies, while humbly asking that they simply support them better.
Simone is showing us it's OK to have shades of gray
Simone's example of bravery should prompt us to support all trauma survivors who can't say no when they, too, are not OK.
Imagine if everyone had the support in their corner like Simone has had in her teammates, fellow athletes rooting for her, and her coach, Cecile Canqueteau-Landi, who all said: look after yourself, we'll take it from here. I thank God for that for her.
It was amazing to watch as everyone rallied around her, valuing her as a person above gold medals.
As Nastia Liukin, a former gymnast turned commentator, said: "She is kind of leading this next generation and showing them that, first of all, it's OK to not be OK - even when you are the greatest of all time."
Thank you, Simone Biles
I know this may be a heavy read. But I have to speak to those that still don't get it.
I'm in awe of Simone as even under the weight of the world she still pulled off and completed her beautiful beam routine.
I hope organizations learn the strongest way to make change is to be part of the change, and there's still time to right wrongs.
Above all, I hope people take a step back in their judgment and realize that even an Olympian is human, needs a break, and doesn't need to explain the complexities of what's running through her mind. She just needs to be able to say "I need space" and be believed.
Thank you, Simone, for giving a voice to the voiceless. It means everything.
Read the original article on Insider