The ESPY Courage Awards are wild because they actually choose people who demonstrate genuine courage. Why am I surprised? I think I see events where wealthy people just award each other for being awesome so to witness a giant corporate entity recognize a genuine quality feels a bit weird. Last year, the ESPY Courage Award went to Colin Kapernick, presented by real world goddess Beyonce, for his work with taking the knee during the national anthem at NFL games to bring awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement. His gesture, though physically humble and was self-described to being akin to praying, was interpreted as defiance, impudence. (I never before realized how much our country still has still not dealt with the effects of the Civil War and slavery. It is still so present in the current fabric of daily life. In the US, black people do not have agency over their own bodies. Why do you think that is? To me, that is directly connected to their history as being considered property, etc. etc. I digress). He gave up a multi-million career, he gave up having a job in a game he loved, but he has said he loves people more. (Um, I’m not so selfless, but you’re awesome.) So like the “courage” in the award title, is real, you feel me?
This year, the ESPY Courage Award went to the female athletes, self-titled “Sister Survivors,” who came forward to accuse their doctor of years of sexual abuse that began when they were children or teens. There more than 150 women who were sexually abused by disgraced USA Gymnastics and Michigan State team doctor Larry Nassar. They were awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for their “strength and resolve” and for bringing “the darkness of sexual abuse into the light.” One of the key athletes, Ali Raisman, said in her acceptance speech that she had complained for years and no one had believed her. “If only one adult believed me, he would have stopped. He would not have abused other girls.” HOLY MACEDONIA. The official count is 140, but on stage, it felt like there were HUNDREDS of women on that stage. HUNDREDS. And you know with these sexual abuse/assault cases, those are the only ones we know about.
How horrible and burdensome on these women, like they not only have to survive and deal with the traumatic experience, then they have to go deal with filing a report and relive it, testify and not be believed. It is a complex, multi-layered burden, especially when the perpetrator just keeps getting promoted, more famous, more successful, more untouchable in society. Like watching the women accusers in the courtroom after Bill Cosby was pronounced guilty of sexual assault, they flung their bodies down on furniture and wept hard. I didn’t see relief there. I felt the terrible quality of their existence. Not only did they have to deal with the violation of their intimate body, they had to deal with being disbelieved. The disastrous Kava-NAH hearings this week have triggered many in my circle. It makes me wonder who among my friends and acquaintances have been assaulted but are not able to tell me yet. As I argued at work the other day (and god, I try not to), for someone who is raped, they think of it every moment, every minute they’re awake. That’s the nature of trauma, and then to have pony up and talk about it publicly? These women have guts. There are people with tremendous courage in the world. Their suffering makes me want to eat something disgusting like Hostess products and pull the covers over my head, but their ability to stand… I’m just in awe. There are strong people on earth.