The shocking scale of the sexual abuse of minors at America’s gyms has been revealed, adding another tragic note to a year that has already been rocked with sports sex scandals. Were the coaches, athletics boards and observers simply “sleepwalking” or was there a more concerted cover-up from USA Gymnastics?
- 368 gymnasts allege sexual exploitation over a 20 year period.
- Children abused in gymnastics gyms around the US by coaches and authority figures.
- UK soccer scandal continues, highlighting pervasiveness of sexual abuse within world of sport.
Pervasive Sexual Abuse of Child Athletes
An investigation spearheaded by website IndyStar has come to some damning conclusions following review of hundreds of police files and court cases across the country.
The shocking rates of sexual abuse with junior gymnastics provides for the first time an indication of just how pervasive the problem is, while evidence of serial sex offenders being shuffled away quietly to work elsewhere has raised uncomfortable questions for the sport’s governing body.
USA Gymnastics, one of the USA’s most prominent and successful Olympic organizations, was shown to fail to alert police to many allegations of sexual abuse that occurred over the last 20 years while and burying complaints in secret reports.
Horrible. This part reminds me of priests. “allowed predatory coaches and staff to move from one gym to the next” https://t.co/13DsQgMmoY
— Gregg Housh (@GreggHoush) December 15, 2016
Additional findings from IndyStar’s research concluded that…
- Dangerous coaches were fired from gym to gym without any tracking or flagging by USA Gymnastics. USA Gymnastics had no systematic way to keep track of high-risk coaches.
- When coaches were suspected of abuse, most kept their jobs under probation. Others were allowed to finish their current season of sport before being fired.
- Gym owners fear harm to their business and have a history of not reporting abusers. Many quietly fired the perpetrators and the dangerous coaches went on to continue to work with children.
One of the Biggest Crises in the History of Sport
This report comes hot on the heels of 2016’s other major child sex abuse in sport scandal: the systematic grooming and molestation of young soccer players in the UK.
Over 20 ex-footballers have made allegations of child sex abuse, with several police investigations launched and momentum building for further victims to come forward.
Football Association chairman Greg Clarke recently apologized to the victims amid accusations of a cover up.
He also responded to claims that clubs may have attempted to bribe victims into silence and described the idea as “morally repugnant”.
Clarke said he was “angry” that “1990s society was sleep walking and we were part of that problem”.
Was There a Cover-Up?
Serious questions are now being asked of USA Gymnastics, with doubts thrown as to their role in the continued abuse of children in gyms across the USA.
Despite internal investigations, many of the coaches alleged to have committed abuse were allowed to either continue working or simply move to a different gymnasium.
With individual gym owners reportedly unwilling to tarnish their own premises with ugly sexual abuse associations, calls are growing for reform to a system that for years let pedophiles slip through the net and continue to gain access to children.
Urgent clarification is required about how much knowledge senior USA Gymnastics figures knew about the rampant abuse occurring at gyms.
More To Come in 2017
A spotlight has been shined upon an organisation that publicly champions the safety of its children and athletes, and this a sorry blow to that image.
Perhaps the saddest thing about these latest revelations are the knowledge that they are likely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexual abuse in sport.
Sexual abuse seems endemic in organised sport over the last 20 years, 2016 has opened a window into the horrifying depths of youth soccer and gymnastics.
With momentum building for victims to come forward, many are expecting the worlds of swimming, ice hockey and football to reveal their darkest chapters in 2017.