On July 18, the ESPYs presented the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to a group of incredible women.
The award is presented to those whose bravery in the face of adversity "transcends sports," and recipients include the likes of Caitlyn Jenner, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, and Nelson Mandela.
This year, the award was presented to more than 100 athletes who were abused by former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar.
With Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, gymnast Sarah Klein, and softball player Tiffany Thomas Lopez at the helm, the "sister survivors" took to the stage to accept the award, speak about the pain of not being heard, and make clear that the abuse they'd experienced can never happen again on any scale.
Photo via ESPN/YouTube.
"The ripple effect of our actions, or inactions, can be enormous, spanning generations," Raisman said in the speech. "Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this nightmare is that it could have been avoided."
"All we needed was one adult to have the integrity stand between us and Larry Nassar," Raisman added. "If just one adult had listened, believed and acted, the people standing before you on this stage would have never have met him.”
Klein declared that protecting children and people at risk must be the priority.
"We must start caring about children's safety more than we care about adults' reputations," she said. "If we can just give one person the courage to use their voice, this is worth it."
Lopez made it clear that it was an opportunity to understand that conversations about sexual abuse must not be something society tiptoes around, that victims come from every background. "Tonight, we stand here and it feels like we’re finally winning."
The award shows that this time of reckoning is here to stay and that the way we collectively handle and discuss about sexual assault must change.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have been represented at the Golden Globes and The Oscars, sparking a well-spring of solidarity in the entertainment industry. The fact that it's moving outside the most mainstream awards shows is proof that the way our society — and its most visible industries — are treating sexual harassment and assault is changing for the better.
Though there's still so much work to be done, this ESPY award is a reminder that we're moving towards a future where abuse won't be tolerated. And that survivor's voices will be heard.
"We may suffer alone," Raisman said as the group of women on stage clasped hands, "but we survive together."
The speech was preceded by a powerful video that served as poignant evidence of the courage the athletes had to exhibit in order to have their voices heard and change the status quo. Watch it below: