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After Olympic gold medal winner Aly Raisman came forward about being sexually assaulted and abused by the National Team doctor, Larry Nassar (who has been sued by dozens of other victims and is currently awaiting sentencing on a child pornography case), many applauded the young gymnast for speaking out and speaking up. However, as is the case with almost every woman who shares a story of assault, some tried to blame Raisman, citing "sexy" photoshoots she'd done in the past as justification for unwanted attention. And when Raisman defended herself, posting a message to Twitter against victim-shaming, her teammate Gabby Douglas reiterated the problematic view of Raisman's detractors by calling on women to "dress modestly," a comment she has now apologized for.
"Just to be clear..." began the message Raisman posted the morning of November 17, "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...i encourage you all to wear what you feel good in...STOP VICTIM SHAMING. It is because of you that so many survivors live in fear."
Douglass quote-retweeted Raisman's statement, adding, "however it is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy. dressing in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd." As many have noted, young Douglas is entitled to her opinion about the best way to present herself, but calling for all women to observe the same dress code in a conversation about sexual assault amounts to an unfair, victim-blaming double standard. Their teammate Simone Biles added her support for Raisman and disappointment with Douglas, posting a picture of the interaction with the caption, "shocks me that I’m seeing this but it doesn’t surprise me... honestly seeing this brings me to tears bc as your teammate I expected more from you & to support her. I support you Aly ? & all the other women out there! STAY STRONG."
Now, Douglas has reconsidered her statement and apologized. "i didn’t correctly word my reply & i am deeply sorry for coming off like i don’t stand alongside my teammates. regardless of what you wear, abuse under any circumstance is never acceptable. i am WITH you. #metoo," she posted to Twitter on the evening of November 17.
Let's all use this as a moment to remember that clothing is an aesthetic choice, not a moral one. Conversations about "sexiness" can be worthwhile, but are separate from conversations about the behavior of predatory men, and have no place in the discussion of rape culture. It's not the victim's fault. Ever.