Anna Sheffer
July 19, 2018 6:45 am

In January 2018, disgraced U.S. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexual assault, thanks to the testimony of over 150 women. And in May, to honor their bravery, ESPN announced that it would present U.S. gymnasts who had spoken up against Nassar with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2018 ESPYs, which took place on July 18th.

Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, whose powerful testimony against Nassar went viral, was among those who received the award. In a July 18th appearance on Good Morning America, she said that her feeling about the honor was “hard to put into words.”

Maura Mandt, producer of the ESPYs, told ESPN that the award’s recipients are selected because of their influence.

On the evening of the ESPYs, Nassar’s survivor’s took to the stage, standing strong and proud after their ordeal. Three survivors, Sarah Klein, Tiffany Thomas Lopez, and Aly Raisman, spoke on behalf of the entire group, noting that if their pain helps enable a single victim of sexual abuse to come forward, it will be worth it.

“1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. These were the years we spoke up about Larry Nassar’s abuse. All those years, we were told, ‘You are wrong. You misunderstood. He’s a doctor. It’s okay. Don’t worry. We’ve got it covered. Be careful. There are risks involved.’ The intention? To silence us in favor of money, medals, and reputation,” Raisman said.

Klein, meanwhile, reminded the audience that speaking up about sexual abuse is one of the hardest things a victim can do. “Speaking up and speaking out is not easy,” she said. “Telling our stories of abuse, over and over and over again, in graphic detail, is not easy. We’re sacrificing privacy, we’re being judged and scrutinized, and it’s grueling and it’s painful, but it is time.”

According to CNN, the award is named for tennis star Arthur Ashe, who advocated for civil rights and HIV and AIDS education before he died of complications from AIDS in 1993. Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, and Billie Jean King have all been honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in the past.

We can think of no better recipients than these brave women.

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