Aly Raisman – a true hero.

I would like to praise Aly Raisman for a moment, and not for what she has been known for up until this point.

Aly came forward and gave an interview recently with 60 minutes, and in that interview talked about matters that I could relate to, empathize with, and I share her pain. She spoke those words that rebel so strongly against our heart and lips, “I am a victim of sexual abuse.”

If you missed it, I encourage you to watch it and listen to what she is saying. She, an athlete of worldwide recognition, discussing how she doubted herself due to the trauma she had suffered and not dealt with. It was an investigator that questioned her about Dr. Nassar, who had already been convicted of child porn and his actions towards her.

Dr. Hassar had been well-liked, respected, trusted, and he had used multiple factors to do what he did. He established himself with the company and parents, showing a desire to help them bring out the best in these wonderful children.

I suggest that the grooming often begins there, predators grooming a position and parents first, and then once in place grooming the children. The gifts, individual attention, praise and encouragement, the abuser is creating an emotional bond with the child that lowers their resistance to what they later do. Aly commented that she had told the investigator that the Dr. made her feel uncomfortable, sure, but she was sure that he cared about her, didn’t mean it, and wanted only the best for her. She didn’t even realize until later that because of the emotional bonding, as a victim she was defending her abuser while struggling with the reality of what actually happened.

You see, the flip side of the emotional bonding is the cognitive dissonance that follows as the child seeks to understand what has happened. All the time spent with the abuser until that point has been acceptable to the child, and these new acts while uncomfortable, seem minor compared to rest. The cognitive dissonance comes from being forced to see things two different ways to justify them in a person’s mind and is often something that happens to those who endure trauma.

Aly points out that she is still coming to terms with what she suffered, what it did to her inside, and how she will cope with it from now on.

We have to recognize these predators, see their tactics and know that they create elaborate identities to groom victims for abuse. Once the abuser had the company’s trust and the parents’ approval, it was nothing to get the child alone, so that when the questionable behaviors began there was no one there to witness it. This isolation also allows the abuser to justify what they are doing to the victim, and since they have been groomed to trust this individual they question their own feelings of discomfort rather than why they feel as they do.

What I also found encouraging was that Aly recognizes that the institution itself has been cold to the victims, because their exposing the predator has caused them shame. Do you see the irony in that a company ashamed by the actions of an employee finds it easier to shame the victim than to accept their part?

How easy it is to question the victim’s timing, why wait until now to share, yet none of them were abused so it’s easy to dismiss what it took to share in the first place. Many of these abusers are well liked and known in their communities or organizations, and it is easier for many to doubt the victims than their own judgment of those they promote or work with.

I am extremely proud of these girls coming forward, speaking out against abuser and the systems they exploit first before they abuse those within it. Companies are about making money first, and I understand that they want to maintain “plausible deniability” so they aren’t considered liable for the action of those they hire and retain, yet, the truth is that these companies are ignoring that policies can be changed to deny these predators access or the privacy to abuse as they are.

Over and over again, in the many cases I have read, the abuser grooms and in private abuses. There are common elements for those willing to see, and I am honored to have Aly and others calling for changes that protect those that follow. May all the institutions take heed and pay attention, be they the Church and priests, Boy Scouts and Scout Masters, or the many that train and treat children during the many interests that are invested in. Parents want the best for their children, yet be aware that where a need can be found someone is somewhere figuring out a way to exploit it.

Watch 60 minutes Overtime, and see how they suggest talking with your children about the adults around them and the dangers they can pose. We are all responsible to make the world aware, and sharing with courage is our way of fighting back. For those that don’t know, I was abused by more than one abuser, and one even became a supporter of a child advocacy center. Remorse or manipulation, you decide.