Gabby Douglas revealed on Tuesday that she was also a victim of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who has been accused by more than 125 women and girls of sexual abuse.
This is the first time the Olympic gymnast has come forward with her own accusations of abuse. Douglas joins a growing number of gymnasts who have accused the 54-year-old doctor of sexually abusing them under the guise of medical treatment, including her Olympic teammates Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney.
Douglas wrote vaguely of the abuse in a statement she posted to Instagram on Tuesday in which she apologizes for a tweet she wrote last week that suggested a woman who dressed “in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd.”
Douglas said that she wasn’t trying to victim-shame women.
“I didn’t view my comments as victim shaming because I know that no matter what you wear, it NEVER gives anyone the right to harass or abuse you,” the 21-year-old gymnast wrote.
“It would be like saying that because of the leotards we wore, it was our fault that we were abused by Larry Nassar,” Douglas added. “I didn’t publicly share my experiences as well as many other things because for years we were conditioned to stay silent and honestly some things were extremely painful.”
“I wholeheartedly support my teammates for coming forward with what happened to them.”
Douglas’ publicist confirmed to HuffPost that the note was Douglas’ way of revealing that she was one of Nassar’s victims.
Raisman tweeted last week criticizing those who shame victims of sexual assault for the way they dress.
“Just because a woman does a sexy photoshoot or wears a sexy outfit does not give a man the right to shame her or not believe her when she comes forward about sexual abuse,” Raisman, who this month revealed she had been sexually abused by Nassar, tweeted Friday morning.
“AND when a woman dresses sexy it does not give a man the right to sexually abuse her EVER,” Raisman added.
Douglas responded to her teammate in a tweet that suggested it is “our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy.”
In her Tuesday statement, Douglas said she was now coming forward with her story because she wanted to provide context for her earlier response to Raisman. Before sending the tweet, Douglas explained, she was at an event with many of her young fans who consider her a role model and she “always want[s] to do my best to represent all the best qualities that a role model should embody.”
“I understand that many of you didn’t know what I was dealing with, but it is important to me that you at least know this,” Douglas wrote. “I do not advocate victim shaming/blaming in any way, shape or form! I will also never support attacking or bullying anyone on social media or anywhere else.”
“Please forgive me for not being more responsible with how I handled the situation,” the Olympic medalist concluded. “I have learned from this and I’m determined to be even better.”
More than 125 women, mostly gymnasts, have filed lawsuits against Nassar, also a former doctor for Michigan State University, accusing him of molesting them while they were under his medical care. The former gymnastics doctor is expected to plead guilty to multiple charges of sexual assault in Michigan’s Ingham County Circuit Court on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.