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Diana Nyad Shares Heartrending Story of Sexual Abuse By Her Coach

Diana Nyad

The celebrated athlete has spoken out about sexual abuse before, but her story for The New York Times is prescient and moving. 

Celebrated athlete Diana Nyad, who famously completed a Cuba-to-Florida swim without a shark tank in her late mid-60s, has spoken openly about the sexual abuse she experienced as a teen before. But responding to the outpouring of women sharing their stories under the auspices of #MeToo since the dam broke about serial sexual abusers like Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, and Kevin Spacey, Nyad penned a heartrending piece about the molestation she faced under her coach, the man who was supposed to be her mentor, for The New York Times.

While Nyad retold her personal story with complete candor, she also touched on universal experiences for so many young women and men who've been abused and who carry that through their lives.

"Here I was, a strong-willed young athlete. There he was, a charismatic pillar of the community," Nyad wrote. "But I'm the one who, all these many years later, at the age of 68, no matter how happy and together I may be, continues to deal with the rage and the shame that comes with being silenced."

A 2014 inductee to the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame, Nyad spoke with Out at length in 2012 about channeling the rage that stemmed from abuse at the hands of the man who began coaching her when she was 10 and who began molesting her when she was 14 into her swimming.

Nyad wrote matter-of-factly in the Times about the initial incident of abuse that occurred at her coach's house while his wife and kids were home:

"Out of nowhere, he was on top of me. He yanked my suit down. He grabbed at and drooled onto my breasts. He hyperventilated and moaned. I didn't breathe for perhaps two full minutes, my body locked in an impenetrable flex. My arms trembled, pinned to my sides. He pleaded with me to open my legs, but they were pressed hard together. If breath gives us force, that day I could feel the strength in my body from the polar opposite -- from not breathing. He ejaculated on my stomach, my athletic torso I was so proud of now suddenly violated with this strange and foul stuff."

The abuse continued for four years until she and a friend discovered they'd suffered similar experiences under the predator. Later, they found there were more girls he'd assaulted. She wrote that he was fired and that when school administrators asked if she and the other girls wanted anything more to happen beyond his being firing (like pressing charges), they declined. The predator went on to coach young women at a nearby university.

Nyad also wrote of the relief she felt when she first broke the silence around her abuse, something the #MeToo movement has offered on a global scale.

"Those who have found a platform to speak, and to be heard, within recent weeks have most likely forged unexpected connections as a result," Nyad wrote. Whenever I mention my case in front of a live audience, invariably women come up to me afterward and let me know that they too are survivors."

Finally, Nyad addressed that despite her strength and accomplishments she was forever changed by the actions of her predator, something that all survivors know too well.

"All the while, the trauma has lodged in an obscure corner of my soul," Nyad wrote. "I refuse to believe it's a lifelong imprint, yet, with age 70 in clear view, I admit to wondering whether I will ever entirely heal that young girl who was pinned down."

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