Simone Biles has opened up about the moment she realized she had been sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, recalling how she was driving on a Texas highway when she called her mother sobbing.
On the latest episode of her Facebook Watch docuseries Simone vs. Herself, the 24-year-old gymnast reflected on her experience as a sexual abuse survivor and her path to healing as she prepared for the Tokyo Olympics.
‘I remember driving on the highway over here on 99, and I was like, “[Gasps], that happened to me.” And I just remember breaking down and calling my mom. She told me to pull over. She’s like, “Can you drive?” because I was crying so hard.’
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Candid: Simone Biles, 24, reflected on her experience as a sexual abuse survivor and her path to healing on the latest episode of her Facebook Watch series Simone vs. Herself
Hard to handle: The gymnast recalled how she was driving on a Texas highway when it hit her that she was abused by Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor
Simone’s mother, Nellie Biles, explained that the Olympian was initially in denial about the abuse and refused to talk about it. Whenever she broached the subject, Simone would get angry and say, “No, don’t talk to me. That didn’t happen to me.”‘
Nellie said she gave her daughter her space until she was ready to talk, and she knew exactly why she was crying when she called her that day.
‘She was just hysterical. She didn’t say anything. She just cried, and we just cried together — because I knew what it was that she wanted to talk about,’ Nellie said. ‘She didn’t have to say anything.’
Nassar sexually abused more than 150 women over the course of his 30-year career. He was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison in 2018.
Simone recalled how she suffered from depression after everything came to light, saying she shut everyone out and never wanted to leave her room.
‘I slept all the time and it’s because sleeping was basically better than offing myself,’ she said as tears welled up in her eyes. ‘It was like my way to escape reality, and sleeping was like the closest thing to death for me at that point. So I just slept all the time.’
Brought to tears: Simone got choked up as she looked back on the moment, explaining that it was an incredibly difficult time for her
Heartbreaking: Simone said she called her mother, Nellie Biles, sobbing at that moment. Nellie teared up as she recalled how they cried on the phone together
As a competitive athlete, she struggled with not knowing when she would start healing from the trauma she endured.
‘With gymnasts, if you get injured, you’re like, okay, your heal time is four to six weeks, but then with something so traumatic that happens like this, well it’s no four to six weeks, so it’s hard for us to process that,’ she explained. ‘There’s like actually no time limit or healing time for it, so you just take it day by day.’
Disgraced doctor: Nassar sexually abused more than 150 women and was sentenced to 175 years in prison
Simone publicly broke her silence in January 2018, revealing in a powerful tweet that she was one of Nassar’s victims.
In her statement, she also shared her heartbreak over having to continue to train at Karolyi Ranch, the former USA Gymnastics national training center where she and other gymnasts were abused by the disgraced doctor.
‘It took me a long time to write that, probably a couple of days, because every time I would go to write, I would start balling, and I couldn’t get through it,’ she said.
Shortly after Simone’s tweet, USA Gymnastics shut down the ranch in Central Texas owned by former coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi, and the gymnast realized she could use her platform to advocate for others.
‘I knew that it would help others, and that’s why I did it — to let them know they are not alone,’ she said.
Dark time: The Olympian suffered from depression as she dealt with the trauma, and she recalled how she ‘slept all the time’ because it was ‘better than offing myself’
Opening up: Simone publicly broke her silence in January 2018, revealing in a tweet that she was one of Nassar’s victims. She’s pictured reading her tweet out loud during the episode
Difficult: Simone also opened up about Karolyi Ranch, the former USA Gymnastics national training center where she and others were abused. She’s pictured at the facility in 2015
Simone also recounted the strict environment at Karolyi Ranch, where she and other gymnasts reported being verbally abused and underfed.
‘It was not fun; I remember telling my parents that,’ she said.
However, the athlete soon realized she would never achieve anything as an elite gymnast if she didn’t go through training at the ranch.
‘You kind of had to do whatever they wanted. But was it a bit much at times? Absolutely,’ she said.
Simone explained that they were isolated at the remote camp, and many of them weren’t aware of what sexual abuse was. Meetings with Nassar were part of their daily routine.
Scene of the crime: USA Gymnastics shut down the isolated ranch in Central Texas owned by former coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi following the abuse allegations against Nassar
No protection: Simone (pictured at the ranch in 2015) explained that many gymnasts weren’t aware of what sexual abuse was, and meetings with Nassar were part of their daily routine
Looking back: Simone (pictured with Martha Karolyi at the ranch in 2015) said she’d ‘probably s**t’ herself if she had to go back , saying she could never train in that environment again
‘At the ranch, obviously, stuff went down,’ she said. ‘It was always called our fifth station. So you have vault, bars, beam, floor, and then therapy was your last station to get your body taken care of. All those years, nobody ever told us what like sexual abuse was, so we didn’t really feel like we were going through it or we were victims.’
‘A lot of us didn’t go to school. We were homeschooled, so it’s not like we had people to talk about it with,’ she said. ‘I remember asking one of my friends, “Hey, if I’ve been touched here, have I been sexually assaulted?”
‘And I thought I was being dramatic at first, and she’s like, “No, absolutely.” And I’m like, “Are you sure? I don’t think so.” I feel like in those instances I was one of the luckier ones because I didn’t get it as bad as some of the other girls I knew.’
In January 2020, U.S. Women’s National Team held its first camp at its new training center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
‘If I had to go back to the ranch right now, I’d probably s**t myself,’ Simone said. ‘Like there is no way I would be able to train for another Olympic cycle under that because I’m more mature. I’m older and realizing it doesn’t have to be like that. It just was like that.’
Support system; Later on in the episode, she had a Zoom call with former Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, 27, during which they spoke about being advocates for sexual abuse survivors
Champion: Simone blew away the competition at the Olympic trials last month. She’s pictured competing on the floor exercise at the event
Veteran: Simone (pictured after being named to Team USA) will lead the six-woman U.S. Olympic Team when the competition starts on July 25
Later on in the episode, she had a Zoom call with former Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, 27, during which the ‘Final Five’ teammates spoke about being advocates for sexual abuse survivors.
Simone admitted to sometimes feeling hesitant to speak out because she is the only survivor who is still competing for the USA Gymnastics team.
‘Not that I am going to be punished for speaking on the inside, but I have to worry about what I say because I am still competing under [USA Gymnastics],’ she explained.
Aly understood the challenging position she was in and reassured her that she is doing a ‘great job’ of speaking out while dealing with the pressure of training.
Simone blew away the competition at the Olympic trials last month and is headed to Tokyo, where she will lead the six-woman U.S. Olympic Team when the competition starts on July 25.
‘I’m definitely older, so it’s more than just my gymnastics at this point that I’m advocating for,’ Simone explained at the start of the episode. ‘But being one of the remaining survivors in the sport, I feel like I still have to be a voice for them and it’s going to be harder to shut us out and our voices out if there’s still somebody competing in the sport and is active.’