Friday, October 22, 2021

A documentary about victims of childhood sexual abuse is inspiring a gymnast, but it’s also infuriating her

An ode to perseverance, discipline and faith, the documentary film “I Am Water” draws inspiration from the journey of three women — Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, Silver medalist Diana Taurasi and surprise Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles — who fell short in their Olympic quests but put personal issues behind them to claim their 2012 and 2016 triumphs at a therapeutic camp called The Ranch.

“I think that we showed that anyone can accomplish a goal if they are able to believe in themselves and they believe in God. We certainly saw that through all of this — that we could all be role models for other people,” Taurasi says in the film.

Olympic champion gymnast Aly Raisman recently called on the web community to share the film with survivors and their families — but she, too, was shattered by the emotional power of the film. “While I understand that I Am Water is a documentary, I am also a survivor who faced a betrayal of my mental health and physical wellbeing by a man who is still in the workplace in our country. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this film to anyone who does not fully understand the effect of the abuse. “#FILMOFFRAUM,” she tweeted.

“In theory, I was OK with watching it because I feel like the ultimate goal of the film is to encourage, empower, and to learn from these women, who all have amazing stories and amazing strength,” Raisman said in a recent phone interview. “I had seen the film and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But once I started to read through all of the information that was given for it, I realized that there are a lot of things that I didn’t even know. I didn’t realize until I saw the film that this had happened to me, because I was 14 years old. So in a way, seeing all of this helped. But I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to watch the film, because I was like, ‘Guys, I have to move on.’

“But it definitely helped me to have the opportunity to see the film, because I would watch it with friends and I’d say, ‘Hey, I saw that.’ ”

Raisman is in the midst of an unprecedented surge in artistic gymnastics, which includes four gold medals in three different events since 2014, giving her the most gold of any American in a single Olympic Games. Raisman is currently competing in her fourth straight Olympics and has a chance to compete in the vault, uneven bars and floor exercises. After struggling with major knee surgery before the 2012 London Olympics, she is recovering from a torn meniscus she suffered in May.

After her devastating post-Olympic journey, Raisman launched a nonprofit last year called The Raisman Foundation to aid teenage girls and women dealing with issues such as domestic violence, depression, eating disorders and sexual abuse. The nonprofit’s first philanthropic project, entitled the Aly Raisman Foundation Youth Summit, connects teenagers with victims of violence in an attempt to make a difference in the lives of the troubled teens. More than 1,000 girls and teens participate in the annual summit, which is scheduled for Sept. 8 at the Morgan State University Student Union on the campus of Morgan State University in Baltimore. The free event will feature motivational speakers and interactive workshops led by youth and survivors of child sexual abuse. The summit is open to girls and their guardians between the ages of 11 and 18.

“It’s something that I think is so needed in the city of Baltimore, especially after the situations that we’ve had here with the Jameis Winston situation and not having the resources that we would need to help these girls,” Raisman said. “Young girls are being victimized, and they don’t know how to cope with it or how to get the help they need. … To see how thankful they were — just knowing that they came through all of that — was really uplifting to all of us.”

“I Am Water” is available now on Amazon Video.

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