Blog Wrap-Up: Calendar Year 2021

As I’ve been doing the previous couple of years, I am doing a blog wrap-up post for 2021.

Much like in 2020, in 2021 the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected what I blog about as well as how I blog. As the theme of this blog is talking about injustices we may be blind to and/or blindly commit, there were (and are) a number of injustices related to the pandemic that I decided were worth talking about here. Additionally, as the pandemic situation has changed, for me personally and in my hometown of New York City, I have changed the extent to which I post updates about the pandemic (at times posting weekly, at times not posting at all, and more recently posting monthly about the pandemic). When I started this blog, I did not anticipate that, in some ways, this would turn out to be a personal diary for an area slammed by the pandemic (and slammed especially badly in Spring 2020), but here we are.

However, probably the most challenging thing for me with this blog has been in covering some issues that were important to talk about, yet delicate and sensitive. Topics such as the January 6th insurrection, the trial involving the police officer who killed George Floyd, critical race theory (posts that I literally spent months writing, editing, and perfecting), and more were all important to talk about, yet were all difficult to write about in their own ways. I can only hope that I’ve added at least a bit of insight into discussions about these topics and more, especially in a political, cultural, and social environment that has felt very fragile at times in the past year.

That being said, it’s not any of these posts that have caught so much attention, but instead my post on “Simone Biles, Sexual Abuse, and Mental Health.” That post has nearly 100 likes and over 40 comments as of the time of my writing this and continues to get likes—not that blog post statistics are the be-all and end-all, but when I was writing this post I had no idea that it would resonate so much with so many people. Granted, I think that Biles’ experiences have resonated with many people, and the popularity of this post is only a microcosm of that fact.

Speaking of my writing getting recognition, I should take some space in this post to recognize the fact that Sakshi Shreya at Art Enthusiastics nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. While I do not write blog award posts anymore as I used to, I appreciate the nomination!

I know that I’ve spent most of this post talking about my own blogging for this year, but I do want to thank all of you, my readers, for reading my posts, liking them, and leaving engaged comments. While I don’t want to get fixated on views, likes, and comments, I am always happy to see others engaged with the topics I write about here, some of which can be sensitive and difficult to think about, talk about, and yes, even write about.

And on that note, I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season.

I will not be publishing any blog posts next week.

Simone Biles, Sexual Abuse, and Mental Health

Simone Biles. Agência Brasil Fotografias, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Content warnings: Sexual abuse, suicide

One of the major stories of the recently concluded Summer Olympics was how decorated American gymnast Simone Biles was ultimately not involved in several of the events that she qualified for as a result of her struggles with mental health. Reaction to this seemed a bit split: many praised her for prioritizing her mental health, while some critics thought of her as a quitter.

Just to clarify, I fall into the former category, not the latter. I think Simone Biles did the right thing in prioritizing her mental health, even if it meant missing some major events this Olympics. To do otherwise would’ve been a danger to her mental and her physical health, which is more important than any Olympic medal.

Yet, at the same time, it seems like there’s often been something missing from the conversations about Simone Biles and her mental health. That “something” is how sexual abuse is statistically shown to have a major negative impact on one’s mental health. Biles is a very famous example of this fact, and as such is someone whose story should highlight that fact.

As many know by now, Biles was one of many women from the United States Gymnastics Team abused by former Olympic doctor Larry Nassar.[1] And when I say many women, I mean many—she was among the 156 women who, in some form, confronted Nassar in court about his abuse.[2] However, she is the last woman knowingly abused by Nassar who is still on the United States Gymnastics Team. And, you can tell that Biles is still working through the abuse she experienced just by listening to her—after struggling on one of the nights of Olympic trials, she said that she was more emotional this year than in 2016 “because of everything I’ve been through.”[3] While yes, there have been other factors that have impacted her mental health, such as a sudden family death during the Olympics,[4] it seems impossible to deny that the mental health struggles related to the abuse she experienced have also affected her.

Yet, it’s not just Biles who is affected mentally as a result of abuse. It’s many other people, too. About 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress. 33% of women who are raped contemplate taking their lives. 13% of women who are raped actually attempt to take their lives.[5] Numbers like these show that Biles’ mental health struggles in the wake of what Larry Nassar did to her do not exist in a bubble; instead, she is a very public example of how such struggles in the light of abuse manifest themselves.

As such, while the story of Simone Biles should be a call to all of us as individuals and our society as a whole to have a greater focus on mental health, her story should arguably, even more importantly, be a call to have a greater focus on the mental health of sexual abuse survivors than what we currently do. While Biles is fortunate to be able to have a therapist,[6] not everyone is so fortunate for one reason or another, whether it be financial costs of going to therapy or still struggling through their own stigmas surrounding it. Our society needs to do a better job of addressing those barriers, because the well-being and lives of those sexually abused count on it.

If you’re in the United States, experienced sexual abuse and need help, know that you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone line, which is (800) 656-4673. If you don’t live in the United States, please check to see if there’s a helpline for sexual abuse survivors in your country.

The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) also has an online hotline as well as an app that could be of use to people who need help but are afraid to speak out loud for fear that their abuser will hear them.

The National Suicide Prevention lifeline is 800-273-8255. As for readers outside the United States, you can find an extensive list of international suicide hotlines here.


[2] Ibid.