‘This is bigger than me’: Breanna Stewart says she was molested starting when she was 9

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Breanna Stewart recalls the smells and the paralysis, her inability to do anything as, she says in a gripping essay published Monday, she was molested.

The WNBA star recounts the horror that began when she was 9 in a Players’ Tribune essay headlined “Me Too.” The abuse at the hands of a man she identifies only as a “construction worker” occurred for two years, and it led to basketball becoming “a sort of safe space.” Now, she says she’s writing about it because “this is bigger than me” and it could save a life.

“In some ways, I’m still the same 11-year-old who just wanted to go to practice,” Stewart wrote. “I’ve never been to therapy. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to relive it. It’s something I’ve tried to tuck away as far back on the shelf as I could. But that only works to an extent. I’ve cried. I cry most after I tell someone who’s important to me. Talking about what I went through, explaining all of it — it guts me. I’m forced to relive it. That’s when it hits that what happened is real. It wasn’t just an awful nightmare. It wasn’t some other life I lived at another time.”

Stewart, a former U-Conn. star who was part of the gold medal-winning U.S. basketball team at the Rio Olympics, is the latest woman to come forward, inspired by the #MeToo Twitter movement started by actress Alyssa Milano. Almost two weeks ago, 2012 Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney announced that she had been molested by Larry Nassar, who pleaded guilty to federal child-pornography charges in June and has been accused by more than 100 women and girls of sexual assault during his time as the USA Gymnastics team doctor. Maroney, 21, alleges that Nassar began molesting her at a U.S. national team training camp in Texas when she was 13 and continued the abuse until she left the sport. Maroney won a team gold medal as part of the Fierce Five as well as a silver in the vault at the 2012 Games in London where, she says, Nassar also abused her. She last competed at the 2013 world championships and announced her retirement in 2016.

The day before Maroney’s disclosure, former gymnast Tatiana Gutsu, the all-around champion at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, accused a former teammate and fellow gold medalist of raping her when she was 15.

Stewart writes that there are some parts of the traumatic experience that she has blocked out, creating what she says are “black holes in my brain.” She knows that her parents called police and that she gave a statement, although she does not remember it.

“I’m angry he took advantage of me as a child,” Stewart writes. “I’ll never get that time back. And what memories I still have, I’ll never be able to erase them. Sometimes I wish for a few more black holes.”

Stewart urges anyone who is being abused to tell somebody — “a parent, a family member, a teacher, a coach, a friend’s parent.”

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