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World gymnastics champion Simone Biles sat down with Vogue magazine for a candid interview, where she spoke about the challenge of overcoming sexual abuse.

The story is for Biles’ Vogue cover debut on featured in the magazine’s August 2020 issue.

Biles was one of over 150 women and girls who came forward to accuse former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. Nassar headed faced a judge over the allegations, and in January 2018, he was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison. He was also given a 60-year sentence from December 2017 in federal prison on child pornography charges.

“It didn’t feel like real life,” she told the publication. “And there were little things that I did that I didn’t know why, but I felt like I was just trying to protect myself.” Such as? “Just, like, little quirks. Like I remember on tour, I would have really bad anxiety about nothing. Or like, walking down a hall, I feared that somebody was following me. I just had a lot of issues that were unexplained until I finally figured out why. The dots connected.”

When the Olympic tour wrapped up, Biles said that the spotlight on the Nassar case had significantly increased.

“I was very depressed,” Biles said. “At one point I slept so much because, for me, it was the closest thing to death without harming myself. It was an escape from all of my thoughts, from the world, from what I was dealing with. It was a really dark time.”

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Once fellow athlete and friend Maggie Nichols spoke out, Biles could not help but compare their experiences to her own, which led to her trying to damp down her personal trauma.

“I was reading Maggie’s coverage and it just hit me,” Biles said. “I was like, I’ve had the same treatments. I remember googling, like, sexually abused. Because I know some girls had it worse than me. I know that for a fact. So I felt like I wasn’t abused, because it wasn’t to the same extent as the other girls. Some of my friends had it really, really bad. They were his favorite. Since mine wasn’t to that capacity, I felt like it didn’t happen.”

Biles says that her public disclosure, knowing that her words could help others, empowered her.

“For me, it was a weight that I carried so heavily on my chest, so I felt like, if I shared it with people, then it would be a relief for me,” Biles added. “And I knew that by sharing my story, I would help other survivors feel comfortable and safe in coming forward.”