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Óðinsdóttir Thankful For Support After Revealing 2016 Rape
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Icelandic gymnast Tinna Óðinsdóttir told IG she has been "shocked" by the outpouring of support she has received since her allegation this past week that she had been raped by a foreign gymnast at an international competition held in November 2016 in Germany.

Icelandic gymnast Tinna Óðinsdóttir told IG she has been "shocked" by the outpouring of support she has received since her allegation this past week that she had been raped by a foreign gymnast at an international competition held in November 2016 in Germany.

"I got so many nice messages, so I'm so thankful for that," Óðinsdóttir told IG on Sunday. "I knew that I had many people around me that cared about me but not that many! So even during hard times like that, I have never felt so loved."

Óðinsdóttir said she was inspired to tell her story by the #MeToo movement in hope to encourage other survivors of sexual assault.

Óðinsdóttir has represented Iceland at several international competitions, including world and European championships, and helped Iceland win the women's team competition for the first time at the 2016 Nordic Cup.

On January 23, Icelandic media site Nútíminn first shared her story. She told IG that she received more interview requests, but agreed to one televised interview with RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

"I find it hard to say this," she told Nútíminn of coming forward. "But we should not be ashamed of this. This was not my fault. And this is not our fault. I think it's OK to see people say and read that it's a reality that this happens."

Óðinsdóttir, who turned 23 on November 3, said is considering filing police reports in Germany and in the country where the gymnast resides. Óðinsdóttir said the Icelandic Gymnastics Federation (FSÍ), only recently notified of the incident, has been very supportive.

"We will support her in the steps she decides to take next," FSÍ chairman Arnar Ólafsson, told RÚV.

Óðinsdóttir did not identify the individual she said assaulted her or the precise competition where she said it occurred, but she competed at the FIG World Cup event held in Cottbus, Germany, in November 2016, where she was pleased with her seventh place on floor exercise, her second World Cup final.

"Of course, I had no idea that my life would change permanently," she told Nútíminn.

Óðinsdóttir said she was assaulted at a hotel following the conclusion of the meet.

Tinna Óðinsdóttir (Iceland) at the 2016 Turnier der Meister, an FIG World Cup in Cottbus, Germany, where she finished seventh in the floor final

"After the competition, I was with my friends and was having fun," Óðinsdóttir said. "This was the last competition of the season, and we went to a fun place with all the competitors at the event. It was really fun, and there were guys from another country with us who invited the girls to go back to a hotel when the entertainment center was closing."

The gymnast said they were having fun at the hotel but things changed once people began leaving, and it was just two females alone with the three male gymnasts.

"My friend and I were chatting at the hotel, but all of a sudden, the atmosphere changed and everything was different," she said. "We obviously noticed this and looked at each other and wanted to get away, but that was when it all started."

Óðinsdóttir said in her interview that it was at that moment when a gymnast from another country began trying to kiss her, and her friend fled the room in fear. Two men held her down while a third raped her, despite her repeatedly telling them to stop. A simple "no" should have been sufficient, she said.

"It's supposed to be enough," she said. "They realized what they were doing. I became completely weak and I realized that I was not going to get any (help) soon."

Óðinsdóttir described what happened next as an out-of-body experience in which all her strength had disappeared. This is a paralysis known as tonic immobility, commonly reported in survivors of sexual assault, and is part of the body's normal "fight or flight" instinct.(According to a 2017 Swedish study of 278 sexual assault survivors done over a two-year period, 70 percent reported "significant" immobility during the assault, and 48 percent experienced "extreme" immobility. Sexual assault survivors who suffered tonic immobility were also more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, according to the study, as they felt more blame and anger directed toward themselves for not fighting back harder.

"It was like my brain blocked everything out," she said. "I went somehow out of my body and watched this happen. I simply do not remember how long it took. I was trying to think of something else — stare straight ahead."

Óðinsdóttir said when it was over, she was tossed out of the room and into the elevator, and described feeling numb as she walked back to her hotel. Though she represents the Fimleikafélagið Björk club in Hafnarfjörður, she was then training at a Danish club in Aarhus with Dutch coach Rene Poutsma. She flew back to Aarhus the next day while the majority of the Icelandic team continued to Reykjavík. She did not initially tell her boyfriend, who picked her up at the airport in Denmark, or her parents at home. She described herself as devastated and unable to open up about what happened.

"I didn't understand anyone," she said. "It's usually very easy to express myself, yet I was isolated and kept these feelings deep inside me. The days passed and I became more and more deceitful, and somehow, I was the same on the outside about everything and everyone. I fell ill around my family and friends and began to lie about pointless things. I was so smooth, yet, at the same time, I was nothing at all like me. I felt so empty. I had no emotion and didn't care about anything."

Óðinsdóttir said that she was unable to concentrate anymore and eventually returned to Iceland. Six months after the competition in Germany, she told her parents about what had happened, and from that moment began to receive the support she needed to begin healing.

"The reason I told them about this so late wasn't because I was afraid of the reaction or that they would judge me or anything like that, but simply because I was trying to spare them," she said. "I didn't want to make them feel bad for me and I didn't want to make me feel sorry or let people see me like some kind of victim. And this characterizes me a bit as a person. I don't want people to worry about me and I don't want to be the reason why somebody feels bad."

Though she received immediate support from her family, Óðinsdóttir felt judgment from others, and she still has to answer the same questions, such as, "Are you completely 100 percent sure you said no?", "Why didn't you scream?" and "Why didn't you go down to the lobby and report it immediately?"

"I said 'no' and that's more than enough," she explained. "I didn't scream because I was too scared. I wanted to leave as soon as possible. And when it was done and I walked to my hotel, there was nothing happening in my head. I was nothing. I walked like a ghost. I was a foreigner in Germany, and I didn't know what to do or where to go. I couldn't even cry. I was in so much shock and I was completely empty. I walked the streets at night and was completely lost."

Óðinsdóttir said that as more people in her circle were told of her allegation, she realized who her true friends are.

"It surprised me who disappeared, and today I have fewer but much better friends," she said. "People may think that you just 'get over' this, but it's not that easy. You learn to live with this, but it follows you forever. Time heals all wounds — but not memories."

She also said she is grateful for the support she received immediately from FSÍ.

"They were there for me, encouraged me to step forward and wanted to assist me if I wanted to press charges," she said.

Óðinsdóttir told IG that she will be getting additional support from her coach, who will be moving from Aarhus to Iceland next month. She also told Icelandic media that she is a stronger person today because of what she has survived, crediting her mother, Alda Erlingsdóttir, especially.

"I am so grateful for the person I am today and that is largely because of my mother's influence," she said. "She is undoubtedly the strongest woman I know. I've always looked at her as a role model and I'll feel that way forever. I've come so far and I didn't believe I could get to this place where I am today. I made the decision to use this trauma as an opportunity and look at it as an experience. I am a different person today, and I have grown immensely at this time. This happened and I can't undo it, but I can use my experience to help others. The memory lives with you and you learn a lot to deal with trauma like this."

Óðinsdóttir is the second gymnast to come forward since the #MeToo movement began last fall. In mid-October, 1992 Olympic champion Tatiana Gutsu of Ukraine accused fellow Olympic champion Vitaly Scherbo (Belarus) of acquaintance rape at a Stuttgart hotel during the 1991 DTB Cup.

Not only has the #MeToo movement hit Iceland, with thousands of Icelandic women sharing stories of their own sexual assaults and taking part in marches, but so has the news of sexual abuse of athletes, most notably in the Larry Nassar tragedy in American gymnastics. Óðinsdóttir said she is grateful for all the survivors who have spoken out and continue to call for changes in sport and society.

"It's so important that the debate does not stop and the revolution does not die out," she said.

For 24/7 assistance for survivors of sexual assault, visit RAINN in the United States, Rape Crisis UK, Rape Crisis Network Europe, and Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia.
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