Grace French's Story
Growing up as a competitive dancer and gymnast in Lansing, Michigan, Grace French first began seeing Larry Nassar for a wrist injury. She was just 12 years old at the time, but says that for the next eight years, the now convicted and imprisoned sex offender and former Michigan State University and U.S. Gymnastics team doctor abused her at every appointment.
“If there’s no accountability, then we’re allowing abusers to thrive,” says French, who, after realizing what she had been subjected to, ultimately found her strength—and her voice—as President and Founder of The Army of Survivors (AOS). In subsequent years, French has dedicated her life to survivor’s rights and advocacy, speaking in front of the United Nations General Assembly in 2019 and passing three laws in her home state of Michigan to expand the statute of limitations and mandatory reporting.
French urges parents of young athletes to be proactive in asking what policies against sexual abuse are in place in their child’s place of sport, as well as what trainings are required, not just of coaches and staff, but of the athletes, themselves. “The best way to address sexual abuse in sports is to act as if it has already happened [so that barriers] can be put in place for abusers,” she says. “[As an athlete], you do have a right to say no and to feel safe.
“Know that you have a voice and that there are people who will stand with you; there is an army [that’s] here for you.”