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More than 140 survivors of former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar were honored for their courage during the most emotional moment at this year’s ESPY Awards ceremony.
The women, including Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, were among the hundreds of patients who have accused the now-imprisoned doctor of sexually molesting them under the guise of medical treatment.
The group took to a Los Angeles stage on Wednesday night to close the program and be recognized with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.
“We are here on this stage to present an image for the world to see. A portrait or survival. A new vision of courage,” said former gymnast Sarah Klein.
The ESPYs honor the past year’s top athletes and moments in sports by recognizing individuals who embody the spirit of sports.
All of the women who received the Arthur Ashe Award were among the hundreds who have accused Nassar of abusing them while under his care when he served as the team doctor for both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University.
“If we choose to listen and we choose to act with empathy, we can draw strength from each other,” Raisman told the crowd. “We may suffer alone, but we survive together.”
“I encourage those suffering to hold tight to your faith and stand tall when speaking your truth. Because I'm here to tell you cannot silence the strong forever,” added former Michigan State University softball player Tiffany Thomas Lopez.
Actress Jennifer Garner presented the recipients with their award, calling them “sister survivors” and praising their strength.
She later posted a photo of the group from a ceremony rehearsal and described how humbling she found the occasion.
"This is a picture of an army. An army of strength. An army for right. Here are 147 survivors of the unspeakable abuses committed by Dr. Larry Nassar," she wrote on Instagram. "Seeing these heroes in one place, on one stage blew me away — it takes such courage and strength to tell their stories. Sunlight is the best antiseptic."
The survivor received a prolonged standing ovation from an audience that remained on its feet while the award recipients spoke.
The ESPYs also posthumously honored three coaches who died while trying to protect their students from a gunman who opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, earlier this year.
Aaron Feis, Scott Beigel and Chris Hixon shared the ESPY award for best coach, an honor accepted by members of the coaches’ families and Stoneman Douglas coach Elliot Bonner.
“The issue of gun violence and what happened at our school isn't a political issue. It's a human issue,” he said, telling the crowd that he hoped the tragedy at the school would help lead to change.