Thursday, 8 April 2010

Sex Abuse Widespread at Swim Clubs


A 15-year-old swimmer from California is opening up about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her coach. That comes just a few weeks after an Olympic gold medalist swimmer alleged that girls at swim clubs across the United States are constantly at risk from sexual abuse, and that authorities have done very little to contain a recognized problem. These are not facts that sexual abuse lawyers are unaware of, but hopefully, the focus on this very real problem will increase awareness about the sex abuse risks to these girls.

The 15-year-old girl was abused at least 150 times, most of the time at the high school pool, and several times in the coach Andrew King’s car, as they traveled to swim tournaments out of town. Like many sexual predators, King didn't bargain on his victim’s bravery. The teen swimmer is now at the core of a sexual abuse lawsuit against King that chronicles several girls. These allegations of abuse go back to the 1980s when King was coaching in the East Bay as well as Washington, where he coached girls before he came to San Jose. Since then, King has pleaded no contest, and had been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

In March, former Olympic swimming gold medalist Deena Deardurff Schmidt, ripped the fa├žade of ignorance off USA Swimming, when she went public with her allegations of molestation. According to Schmidt, she was molested several times by her coach across a period of four years. Schmidt took her complaints to the authorities at USA Swimming, but no action was taken against the coach. Far from taking any action, authorities actually allowed him to train other girls, and –the final insult to all his victims- was actually inducted into the International Swimming Hall Of Fame.

Any sexual abuse attorney will tell you. What makes these cases so difficult to take forward is that so few victims are given the support and encouragement they need to come forward and tell their stories without shame or humiliation. Schmidt however has been frank about wanting to give a face to a widespread problem in the sport. According to her, the culture in swimming encourages the ignorance of sexual relationships between coaches and the young girls under their care.

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