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McKayla Maroney is reflecting on the toll that speaking out against abusers can take on a survivor.
The 25-year-old athlete revealed in 2017 that she had been sexually abused by disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted in January 2018 after being accused of sexual misconduct by more than 150 women and girls.
Maroney initially shared that she had been abused in an October 2017 Twitter post, writing then that it lasted until she left the sport in 2016. In her first TV interview about the allegations in April 2018, the gold-medal-winning Olympian told NBC News that Nassar's abuse was constant and began almost immediately after going to the former doctor nearly a decade ago.
On Instagram Monday, Maroney posed in a Britney Spears T-shirt and said she relates to the pop star's struggles. She said that "speaking up about abuse is extremely exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally."
"From a young age I was taught to work hard, and persevere," she wrote in the caption. "Gymnastics taught me to be tough, resilient, and to overcome all obstacles… and if you know me, or have been following me, you probably have picked up that I'm naturally just a positive, bubbly person, who leans more towards optimism, and having faith because that's what makes me happy."
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"So calling out abusers, and dwelling on all the dark negative pieces of my past felt extremely wrong for me," Maroney continued. "I hated the depressing tone my life took on, and how the media portrayed me. I never wanted to be seen as a victim, I just wanted Larry Nassar in jail, and the people who enabled the abuse to be held accountable. I wanted to MOVE ON, and go back to being myself, but I needed to learn the power of my voice, boundaries, and WHEN to be resilient."
The Olympic gymnast said Spears' story "resonates with me so much, because just like Britney, I also had to 'fake it till you make it' to survive my 2012 Olympics." Spears, who is currently trying to end her longtime conservatorship, wrote on Instagram last month that she "lied and told the whole world I'm OK and I'm happy" and that "I've been in shock. I am traumatized. Fake it 'til you make it, but now I'm telling you the truth, OK? I'm not happy."
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Maroney said about the 2012 London Games, "I was just trying to accomplish my dream, but I had abuse coming at me from many angles that I didn't understand how to process at 15. I had to suppress it, and I had to minimize it, just to get through the day."
She also wrote that "media is hugely to blame," and that she and other athletes were "used" for "money" and no one bothered to "protect us."
In May, Maroney said in a tweet that she is writing a book: "I've been responding to more gymnastics questions if anyone needs any advice. I'm working on a book right now, and I'm extremely excited to share my story, and all the things I learned from being an elite gymnast. It felt too hard to write about before, but I'm ready now."
Nassar, 57, is currently serving a life sentence on charges of child pornography and sexual misconduct.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.