‘This is just the very beginning’: Aly Raisman speaks at Coffman

The Olympian spoke about sexual assault within athletics and the #MeToo movement.

Two-time Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman speaks at Coffman Union on Saturday, March 24.

Image by Jack Rodgers

Two-time Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman speaks at Coffman Union on Saturday, March 24.

by Eliana Schreiber

Several hundred students and community members gathered in the Great Hall of Coffman Union Saturday night to hear two-time Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman speak.

At the event, Raisman spoke about her book, the #MeToo movement, bullying, feminism and being a leader.

The talk, put on by Student Unions and Activities and Minnesota Hillel, was also co-sponsored by the Aurora Center, Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council.

In light of her current lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, Raisman spoke out about the culture within gymnastics surrounding abuse, and addressed misconceptions.

“It’s a cultural problem in the sport of gymnastics, where USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic Committee, Michigan State University and the NCAA look the other way,” Raisman said in an interview before the event.

She also gave advice to audience members about how to support those in the #MeToo movement, telling them, “it’s never, ever your fault.”

“I feel the pressure to speak on behalf of other people who don’t feel heard,” Raisman said at the talk. “What empowers me is knowing that this is bigger than myself.” 

Many gymnasts in the audience were inspired by her words. Sixteen-year-old Ella Pratt said she was encouraged by Raisman being such an outspoken advocate.

“It was really cool to see someone I looked up to and that she has hardships too,” Pratt said.

Raisman said she wants more education surrounding abuse on college campuses, and emphasized the importance of talking openly about issues and holding those in power accountable.

“I want students to know that if anyone is hurting them or making them feel uncomfortable, I want them to feel safe to come forward,” she said.

Haley Hiljus, one of the panel moderators and a Student Unions program board coordinator, said the event had a great crowd response.

“It was really exciting and powerful what she brought to campus,” Hiljus said.

Hiljus said she felt one of the most important topics Raisman spoke about was the victim-blaming culture on college campuses.

“We’ve seen it at my time here at the U, and it’s definitely grown across the country,” she said.

First-year business student Angela Thomas said, as a member of a sorority on campus, she was proud to hear Raisman, an empowering woman, speak openly about sexual assault.

“In a lot of Greek communities, women are faced with issues of sexual assault,” Thomas said. “It made me feel very hopeful.”

Raisman told audience members she was empowered to be able to educate people about abuse and speaking up against injustice.

“This is just the very beginning,” she said at the event. “There’s still so much left to do.”