July 19 (UPI) -- More than 140 women took the stage at the 2018 ESPY Awards, providing a powerful image signifying the scope of abuse by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
Aly Raisman, Sarah Klein and Tiffany Thomas Lopez fronted the group Wednesday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Each of the three women gave acceptance speeches after being handed the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
In total, 141 women abused by Nassar walked onto the stage, facing some of the best athletes in the world, fans and cameras sending broadcast feeds around the world.
"It's a privilege to stand up here with my sister survivors as we represent hundreds more who are not with us tonight," said Klein, a former gymnast.
"Make no mistake -- we're here on this stage to present an image for the world to see, a portrait of survival, a new vision of courage."
Klein went on to describe Nassar's history of abuse tracking back 30 years for women at the United States Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. She credited the work of Michigan State Police detective Lt. Andrea Munford and Assistant Attorney General Andrea Povilatis, who prosecuted Nassar's case.
Nassar is serving the equivalent of a life prison sentence for his crimes. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who sentenced Nassar, attended the ESPY ceremony.
"There are a lot of conversations in our society that we tiptoe around as if they're something to avoid," said Lopez, a former softball player at Michigan State. "I know in my life, I've seen people have looked that way at two issues extremely personal to me: race and sexual abuse. Sexual abuse claims victims in every race, showing no discrimination. Just like Arthur Ashe, I stand so very proud representing not only minorities, but all of us as humans, the human race."
"I encourage those suffering to hold tight to your faith, and stand tall when speaking your truth. Because I'm here to tell you, you cannot silence the strong forever."
Raisman gave the final speech. The three-time gold medalist, two-time silver medalist and onetime bronze medalist spoke for the longest of the three women, referencing the years that Nassar's victims spoke up to adults about the abuse but nothing was done for them.
"But we persisted, and finally, someone listened and believed us," Raisman said. "This past January, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina showed a profound level of understanding by giving us each the opportunity to face our abuser, to speak our truth and feel heard. Thank you, Judge Aquilina, for honoring our voices. For too long, we were ignored, and you helped us rediscover the power we each possess. You may never meet the hundreds of children you saved, but know they exist.
"The ripple effect of our actions, or inactions, can be enormous, spanning generations. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this nightmare is that it could have been avoided. Predators thrive in silence. It is all too common for people to choose to not get involved. Whether you act or do nothing, you are shaping the world we live in, impacting others. All we needed was one adult to have the integrity to stand between us and Larry Nassar. If just one adult had listened, believed and acted, the people standing before you on this stage would have never met him.Advertisement
"Too often, abusers, and enablers perpetuate suffering by making survivors feel that their truth doesn't matter. To the survivors out there, don't let anyone rewrite your story. Your truth does matter. You matter. And you are not alone.
"We all face hardships. If we choose to listen and we choose to act with empathy, we can draw strength from each other. We may suffer alone, but we survive together."
ESPYs host Danica Patrick walked on the stage to give closing remarks to wrap up the ceremony.
2018 ESPY Award Winners
Best College Athlete: Former Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield
Best Female Athlete: Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim
Best Male Athlete: Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin
Best Team: Houston Astros
Best Game: U.S. women's hockey team's shootout win vs. Canada in the gold medal game at the Pyeongchang Olympics
Best Olympic Moment: Shaun White's gold medal-winning run in Pyeongchang
Best Play: Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale's buzzer-beater to win the national championship
Best Record-Breaking Performance: Roger Federer
Best International Men's Soccer Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Best International Women's Soccer Player: Sam Kerr
Best NFL Player: Tom Brady
Best MLB player: Mike Trout
Best NHL Player: Alex Ovechkin
Best Driver: Martin Truex Jr.
Best NBA Player: LeBron James
Best WNBA Player: Maya Moore
Best Fighter: Terence Crawford
Best Male Golfer: Jordan Spieth
Best Female Golfer: Sung-Hyun Park
Best Male Olympian: Shaun White
Best Female Olympian: Chloe Kim
Best Male Tennis Player: Roger Federer
Best Female Tennis Player: Sloane Stephens
Best Male Action Sports Athlete: David Wise
Best Female Action Sports Athlete: Chloe Kim
Best Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Best Male Athlete with a Disability: Mike Schultz
Best Female Athlete with a Disability: Brenna Huckaby
Best Bowler: Rhino Page
Best MLS Player: Nemanja Nikolic
Best NWSL Player: Megan Rapinoe
Capital One Cup: Stanford Cardinal sports
Jimmy V Award for Perseverance: Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly
Pat Tillman Award for Service: Sgt. Jake Wood of the U.S. Marines
Best Coach: Aaron Feis, Scott Beigel and Chris Hixon, who died in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
Arthur Ashe Award for Courage: The "sister survivors" from USA Gymnastics and Michigan State