Displaying items by tag: Sexual Abuse http://safe4athletes.org Tue, 05 May 2015 15:10:30 -0700 en-gb Safe4Athletes Survey Results http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/70-survey-results-sexual-abuse-physical-abuse-emotional-abuse-verbal-abuse http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/70-survey-results-sexual-abuse-physical-abuse-emotional-abuse-verbal-abuse

Safe4Athletes Survey Results


Safe4Athletes developed an online survey to indentify current and former athletes and to learn about the type of harassment that may have been experienced over the course of their career. The survey allows for both  the athlete and a parent of athlete to respond.

Aims: To determine if there were any trends across sport, gender and competition level, that identify abuse levels for emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse.

Methods: The survey was distributed in phases;  the first phase was directed towards personal contacts, via Facebook ( friends and large number of Olympians from around the world), and private communication with contacts that have come to Safe4athletes with experience of abuse in some form in sports.  The second phase included a more public distribution with websites like Huffington Post, Momsteam,  (a focused parent/athlete audience) and the Safe4athletes website.


Results: 155 participants – 103 Athletes – 52 Athlete/Parent;  Athletes 91 Female and 12 Male. 


Of the 91 Female (64.8% at National Level or above) – Verbal abuse - 49.4%, Emotional abuse – 62.6% - Physical Abuse – 15.3, Sexual Abuse – 27.47.

Of the 12 Male Athletes (75 % at National Level or above) – Verbal abuse – 41.6%, Emotional Abuse – 41.6%, Physical Abuse 8.3%, Sexual Abuse – 8.3%

Female Athletes identified Abuse of all kinds never happened at 19.4%

Male Athletes identified Abuse of all kinds never happened at 66 %

Athlete/Parent identified Abuse of All Kinds at a rate 81.1%


$1-       Coaches have regular harassment and sensitivity training

$1-       Policies and Procedures for all sports clubs

$1-       An Athlete Welfare Advocate for every sports team that acts on behalf of the athlete

$1-       All reports are investigated

$1-       Athlete education on what is abuse and how to get help

$1-       Join Safe4athletes 

Survey Final061614




katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Mon, 05 May 2014 13:38:44 -0700
“Palo Alto” the upcoming film: Should the Coach Athlete Relationship be glorified? http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/69-palo-alt http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/69-palo-alt

Written by: Katherine Starr

The upcoming film “Palo Alto” centers around a 14 year old high school girl soccer athlete, played by Emma Roberts (actual age 22), who gets romantically involved with her high school soccer coach, played by James Franco.  (Movie Trailer click here )

The trailer for this movie begins with scenes depicting the dynamics between Emma Roberts and her teammates, who are openly discussing the obvious attraction that is going on between Emma Roberts (Athlete) and James Franco (Coach).  We see Emma Roberts displaying her shyness and obvious attraction for her coach as she is teased by her teammates.

 The next vignette of the trailer shows a series of boys, the age of the girls, acting out of control and Robert’s frustration with their immaturity when all she wants is a loving mature boyfriend.  This sets  the stage for James Franco to make sexual advances toward Emma Roberts,  while Emma is showing open displays of frustration with boys her own age. Roberts is left vulnerable to be sexually molested by her coach as she sits in her locker alone at school as the coach approaches her. The Coach enters with the narration overlay “I’m older and I know that there aren’t a lot of good things around”. The  coach molests the 14 year old high school soccer player.


 Then we see Emma Roberts playing soccer on the field as the other girls discuss her relationship with the coach from the bench. This scene comes across implying that Emma Roberts was only out there because she was having a sexual relationship with her coach. This is a classic set up and justification to blame the victim, making it falsely okay to have no empathy for the athlete who struggles when the coach athlete sexual relationship ends.  The athlete is left isolated and alone with no one to turn to for sympathy, compassion and understanding. Instead, the other athletes blame her for all the pain and suffering experienced as a result.

 While the movie was reviewed as James Franco’s character being a sleazy coach, and in some cases a sexual predator, it still also presents the classic justification for the criminal acts of the coach. Films like “Palo Alto” send the topic “coach athlete abuse” backwards. The conclusion in this type of portrayal of darkness is best presented in such a way illustrate the catastrophic effects that this type of relationship has on an individual as well as to underscore a zero tolerance policy for coach athlete relationships. The portrayal of the coach athlete relationship in this film doesn’t have a strong enough commitment to faithfully presenting the degree of pain and suffering that such a relationship can bring to an athlete.

 The film premise in the scene with the teammates on the bench talking about the relationship with the coach and Emma Roberts, leads the audience to believe that being in a relationship can gain more playing time.  This type of message is harmful to sports and young girls influenced by the clear abuse of power dynamic that is being played out. 

 We need more discussion around the emotional relationships that transpires between the athlete and the coach.  As athletes, we depend on that relationship to develop our mind, body and soul. There is an inherent depth to this relationship and an important trust that drives us to next level. If any of those lines are crossed they are crossed for the rest of our lives. Recovery is very difficult and frequently leads to long-term depression or even suicide. The effects are devastating.

 If films continue to glorify the coach athlete relationship uncritically, we continue to risk a lifetime of pain and suffering. It may seem at the time, the transgression is ‘not that bad’.  The teammates often blame their teammate for being involved with the coach and have a perception that this was wanted attention and was a good thing for the athlete. When the Athlete tries to remove themselves from the situation they are chastised again for upsetting the team dynamics and causing further harm to the rest of the teammates.  This is flat out harmful and wrong. We need to stop supporting such behavior and the cycle of abuse that resides amongst athletes and teammates.

 Shame on you James Franco; stop glorifying this type of coach athlete relationship. Socially, we need to stop justifying it and seeing how harmful it truly is. We need to start educating our athletes about the inherent dangers of such inappropriate relationships and implementing better policies and procedures for sports programs. 


katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Wed, 23 Apr 2014 08:17:27 -0700
Have 2 Minutes? Take the Safe4Athletes Survey to help Make Sports Safe4Athletes http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/68-safe4athletes-survey http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/68-safe4athletes-survey

A few minutes of your time could be the difference between an athlete being silent about their abuse or having a voice to speak up. 

We are asking you to help make sports Safe4Athletes by taking a few minutes of your time to participate in our survey. By COMPLETING our survey we can learn a little bit more about each sport at every level.  

There is very little current data to truly understand the type of abuse that has transpired in sports for decades.  We know that it's there and know that each sport has different unique characteristics of the type of abuse (Sexual, verbal, physical and emotional). Help us change that by completing the survery. We want to hear from anyone that has competed for a single season to having committed to over 10,000 in pursuit of excellence in your sport. The more knowledge we can gain the bigger the impact. Help us change what is broken and preserve what makes sports great.  

The survey can be completed by either the athlete or an athlete parent of a minor competitor. The minor competitor can complete the survey as well as Athlete Self. All responses are anonymous. 

Please share this survey with your networks as the more the "past and present" athletes at all levels of sport participate the louder our collective voices become.

Click here to take the SURVEY we will look forward to sharing our findings in the coming months. (Stay Tuned)


Thank you for helping us Make Sports SAFE4ATHLETES

katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Sat, 22 Feb 2014 09:11:25 -0800
Safe4Athletes in February!! http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/67-safe4athletes-in-february http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/67-safe4athletes-in-february

Traveling Far and Thru the Snow to Bring Safe4athletes to Sharon, Pennsylvania


Safe4Athletes would like to welcome Sharon High School to the Safe4Athletes program and recognize them as a leader in addressing the topic of abuse, bullying and harassment in team sports.  With the entire world currently watching the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, now is the time to elevate our message and inspire all athletes to be a part of a safe athletic community. 


As part of the program we are proud announce our new mobile app for the Smartphone, soon to be available in the App Store and Google Play.  The Safe4Athletes app puts the power of program into the hands of today’s youth enabling school and club sports programs, coaches, parents and athletes to become part of a community that does not condone any kind of abuse in sports.  The new app offers one of the first-of-its-kind Abuse Reporting features.   On the app, anyone will be able to report abuse, anonymously, right from their mobile phone, helping to empower every athlete and provide a safe and positive environment free of abuse, bullying and harassment.   


Check out our latest interview with Safe4Athletes founder, Katherine Starr at Sharon High School on WFMJ Local Sharon/Pittsburg Evening News.


Next Scheduled Interview is Feb 16th at 12:15pm (central time) Live Radio interview on America Weekend with Turi Ryder to discuss Athlete Safety. 

To learn more about becoming a Safe4Athletes Program please see our 4-Clubs page for details on getting started. 


katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Fri, 14 Feb 2014 12:43:45 -0800
The Truth about Coach-Athlete Relationships http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/62-the-truth-about-coach-athlete-relationships http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/62-the-truth-about-coach-athlete-relationships

By Katherine Starr – President & Founder Safe4Athletes

Since the Sandusky case we have jumped on the bandwagon in sports and addressed child sexual abuse in sports. We show videos of adolescent aged girls and boys being targeted and abused. Without a doubt, we react emotionally and with revulsion to something so horrific as the taking the innocence of a young child.

Yet, that isn’t the whole truth when discussing coach-athlete sexual abuse. If you look at the list of banned swim coaches on the USA Swimming website, there isn’t one coached banned for a sexual abuse who was accused of having a relationship with a swimmer under the age of 13. 

We wouldn’t know that based on the education videos that we are forced to watch in order to be certified in some capacity in sports.  These videos only depict young children being cultivated by acquaintance pedophiles.

Why aren’t we seeing videos of an 17-yr-old voicing how a close relationship with his or her coach went from athlete affection as a reward for their hard work on the practice field  to molestation or,  from the psyche and perspective of the artfully manipulated athlete, “a loving relationship.”  This scenario just doesn’t pull at our heartstrings in the same way.  Why aren’t we seeing a video of a 25-year-old, who we assume is a consenting adult, talking about such a relationship?  We react with even less sympathy in this case, if any at all.

If we truly want to address sexual abuse and harassment in sports we need to call it what it is, an abuse of power between the coach and the athlete that occurs at all ages.  We are misled if educational materials imply something else. 

If we look at the minimum age requirements to compete in the Olympics by sport, one would find that age requirements correlate to the vulnerability of athlete sexual abuse.   The lower end sports that begin to peak around 13/14 like gymnastics, swimming and taekwondo is also the age where the “coach-athlete relationship” begins and coaches start to get banned for their inappropriate relationships with their athletes.

When you look at some of the old minimum-age sports like Team Handball, Cycling and Weightlifting that have age requirements of 17-or 18-years-old, we hear less about these cases, as it is presumed that there was consent with the coach at that point.

If you look at the website of listed organizations with a list of banned coaches, they are the ones with the younger age limits to compete at the international level.


What does this tell us?  Answer:  We are continuing to fail to understand the dynamic between the coach and the athlete as being one that is characterized first and foremost as an “abuse of power” regardless of the age of athlete.

Current and new laws only address this issue up to the age of 18, which tells me we are responding to that picture of the 8-year-old victim and not the 24-year-old athlete that we all presumed consented to their inappropriate relationship with their coach.

If we took the approach of addressing this issue across the age spectrum, we have a better chance of truly hearing and understand what the real problem is with regard to coach-athlete relationships.  For too long, sport organizations have refused to deal with this issue.  Now that litigation and bad press are forcing sport leaders to adopt policies and education programs, rather than confronting the issue in its entirety and identifying its “abuse of power” source, our heads are still “in the sand”.   This issue is less about the child abuser still on the loose in our larger society.  This issue is about a more artful sport-specific or education-specific version of abuse in which a position of power is key to taking advantage of less powerful and emotionally less mature athletes to advance a coach’s sexual appetite.  In many ways, this form of abuse is more insidious because of the violation of trust in a revered position – be it coach, teacher or priest.

Not only do we all need to get our heads “out of the sand” but we must design educational materials and create new laws to truthfully express the nature of the problem.

katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Wed, 26 Sep 2012 00:00:00 -0700
USA SWIMMING HOUSE OF DELEGATES CLOSES SEXUAL ABUSE LOOPHOLES; BANS COACH/ATHLETE RELATIONSHIPS http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/61-usa-swimming-house-of-delegates-closes-sexual-abuse-loopholes-bans-coach-athlete-relationships http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/61-usa-swimming-house-of-delegates-closes-sexual-abuse-loopholes-bans-coach-athlete-relationships

GARDEN GROVE, California, September 14. THE USA Swimming House of Delegates met today as part of the United States Aquatic Sports Convention being held in Garden Grove this weekend. While several more technical rules were being voted on, the most high-profile proposals involved the Safe Sport program. 

R-10, R-12, R-13 and R-14 all focused on strengthening the rulebook when it comes to protecting children from rogue members who may look to prey on them, and closing some other loopholes to be found in the Safe Sport rules 

R-12 proposed, for the second year in a row, that consensual adult relationships between coaches and athletes be banned from the sport, where coaches have direct control over the athlete. Not only is this standard regarding sexual harassment laws throughout the country, it also is required by the United States Olympic Committee. This item was previously voted down by the House of Delegates, but passed today with zero discussion. 

If this item had not been passed, it would have led to a showdown with the USOC regarding high performance funding as well as potential issues with USA Swimming continuing to be certified as the national governing body for the sport of swimming. 

With some initial discussion following the proposal passing being concerned about currently married couples now being in violation, USA Swimming reminded its membership that it does not include pre-existing relationships. 


New legislation prohibiting romantic relationships btwn adult coaches & adult athletes specifically exempts pre existing relationships.

-- USA Swim Safe Sport (@SwimSafeSport) September 14, 2013

Meanwhile, the other Safe Sport items also passed without discussion according to our source in the House of Delegates. 

In R-10, USA Swimming board member David Berkoff added some redundancy to the rules. In 2010, the House of Delegates added a rule in the membership area of the bylaws allowing the Board of Review to have jurisdiction over former members. 

This 2010 vote closed a loophole where code of conduct violators that were no longer members of USA Swimming could not, by definition of the organization's bylaws, be banned for life. These alleged perpetrators used to be handled with a private, internal flagging process by USA Swimming, where the individual was subject to review if they ever decided to try to regain membership. However, Berkoff felt that being part of the Code of Conduct itself would give the jurisdiction a more prominent location within the rulebook. 

The R-13 proposal expands the definition of what types of sexual abuse USA Swimming has jurisdiction over. Currently, the Safe Sport rules regarding Code of Conduct focus on adults abusing children. Safe Sport looked to add sexual abuse by a minor athlete against another minor athlete as a violation. Currently, the only way USA Swimming can enact punishment for peer-to-peer abuse is if the minor is arrested on a felony charge. 

R-14 looks to add some more teeth to the Banned for Life list. Currently, there are no provisions to punish current USA Swimming members who help banned members find access to athlete members. This proposal makes it a code of conduct violation for doing so, and also forces banned members out of ownership roles in USA Swimming clubs. 

In other decisions, , R-15, a proposal requesting that LSC Boards of Review be moved to the Zone level passed, with the changes taking place Jan. 1, 2015. R-9, a proposal looking to define the intent of Speedo Sectionals meets as stepping stones to National events and qualify swimmers for Junior Nationals, also passed with a single amendment allowing summer sectionals to span up to four days. 

R-6, asking for the ability of a club on the border of an LSC to be able to host an event in a neighboring LSC failed. This led to R-7 being pulled from a vote as it was contingent on R-6 passing. R-17, requesting the house of delegates only come together every other year instead of annually, failed. Another house of delegates related vote, R-18, looking to change the allocation and number of delegates also failed. 

A resolution looking to change convention dates from Wed-Sat to Sun-Wed failed. A final resolution asking for approval for an annual increase in dues from the standard $1 a year to $2 a year passed, meaning dues will increase $2 a year for the next 10 years.


Safe4Athletes Blog Sat, 14 Sep 2013 17:34:16 -0700
Off to a Great Start for the New Year! – January 2014 http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/60-off-to-a-great-start-for-the-new-year-–-january-2014 http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/60-off-to-a-great-start-for-the-new-year-–-january-2014

Safe4Athletes had the privilege to take part in an Al Jazeera interview on The Stream - The high price of Olympic glory on January 9.

The broadcast included Attorney Jonathan Little, Dr. Mitch Abrams Ph.D and Nancy Hogshead-Makar.  The program examines how more athletes are coming forward and openly talking about the abuse they received from their coaches, whether it’s psychological or physical abuse, with several high profile cases making headlines.  Allegations of abuse are not limited to the U.S.  That’s exactly the reason Safe4Athletes pushes for more stringent policies that protect athletes from abusive coaches, whether they are Olympians or in club sports.  


Safe4Athletes is dedicated to athlete welfare -- where every athlete is provided a safe and positive environment free of sexual abuse, bullying and harassment.


katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Tue, 03 Sep 2013 14:46:52 -0700
Are You Really Prepared for the Upcoming Youth Sports Season? http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/58-are-you-really-prepared-for-the-upcoming-sports-season? http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/58-are-you-really-prepared-for-the-upcoming-sports-season?

Summer is almost over for most schools around the country with school sports and open amateur sports programs beginning across the United States.  New sports season can often mean new coaches, supporting staff and new teammates. 

As every parent prepares their young athlete for the new sports season, they get all the right equipment and make sure their children have everything they need to be successful for training and competition.   Parents purchase the new team gear and may stock up on the latest trend in “energy” products to keep young athletes refreshed and hydrated in the field of play.  Parents   do as much as they can to ensure their children have whatever they needs to make the  team, be successful at training and are in the best position they can be to win their races or contests.

As parent engage in this preparation, seldom do they consider   the dark side of sports -- sexual abuse, bullying and harassment.   If asked about the issue, most parents believe these are things they don’t happen in their school or their children’s youth sport program.  At best, parents might say they’ve watched the latest educational video and know what to look for.

Even when parents have watched that video and feel educated about sexual abuse, bullying and harassment,  when that behavior is right in front of them, they are at a loss with regard to what they should do,  Without policies and procedures in place to address these issues, individuals who abuse our children continue operating   in the sports system simply because there aren’t   mechanisms established to confront and penalize misconduct and ultimately to ban such individuals from continuing to work with our children. 


The functions of having specific policies in place are multiple:  (1) misconduct is specifically defined so that athletes, parents and employees know wrong behavior when they see it, (2) everyone in the sport program is made responsible for reporting conduct violations, (3) athletes know who to contact to safely report violations without fear of retaliation from coaches or others who are more powerful than they are, (4) a mandate for immediate decision-making and action to restore a safe sport environment is established and (5) violators of policy clearly understand what will happen to them if they engage in prohibited activities.  Think of what could happen without policies in place:  employees thinking they can get away with sexual misconduct, bullying or abusive behavior, parents, athletes and others hesitating to speak up about the conduct of a successful or popular coach, athletes being afraid of reporting the misbehavior of a coach and not knowing who to go to and program administrators taking to much time to decide what to do to deal with an unsafe situation.

We are not powerless over these issues, we can empower ourselves to make sure that there are policies and procedures in place. We also need an “athlete welfare advocate” in every sports environment so they athletes know a safe place to go for advice about their concerns and that this person is designated to represent them rather than the coach or the program.   Without these key elements, we keep our athletes vulnerable to sexual abuse, bully and harassment without recourse and change.

If parents roll their eyes because they are concerned that putting such policies and procedures in place is just one more cost after all the other financial sacrifices they are making to enable their children to participation, they don’t understand that creating such a safe environment doesn’t cost anything.     Safe4Athletes policies and procedures and educational materials are free and accessible online, ready for every local sports program to adopt.

We need to prepare our athletes and educate them on the range of abusive behavior that are commonly seen and experienced in the sports program.  We need to educate our parents and empower them through knowledge. We need to teach our athletes how to speak up against sexual misconduct, bullying and harassment without fear over retaliation and further victimization.  Parents must insist on such accountability in our sports programs.

If we set the team standard as meeting the threshold of “is it safe and positive” we are providing the best possible sports experiences we can.  If not, we must address and be able to take action to restore the environment to meet that standard. Without a comprehensive program that includes policies and procedures that address sexual misconduct, bullying and harassment, we remain powerless in the face of such behaviors and allow these behaviors to continue hurting our children.     

Take action and adopt a Safe4Athletes program today, and give a voice to every athlete everywhere.


katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Sun, 25 Aug 2013 17:56:44 -0700
United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs (USA IGC) Adopts Safe4Athletes Policies http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/56-united-states-association-of-independent-gymnastics-clubs-usa-igc-adopts-safe4athletes-policies http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/56-united-states-association-of-independent-gymnastics-clubs-usa-igc-adopts-safe4athletes-policies

New York, NY—June 25, 2013—The United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs (USAIGC) has announced it will formally adopt mandatory Safe4Atheles guidelines and policies Association-wide.  The announcement came at the USAIGC/IAIGC World Championships in Palm Springs, California earlier this week. 

Effective immediately, the USAIGC has made it mandatory for all member clubs to complete a 100% background check on all employees & club owners by the end of 2013.

“On behalf of our club owners and their students, I am very proud that we have taken this essential move to make Safe4Athletes’ policies a reality for every one of our member clubs,” said USAIGC President Paul Spadero.  “USAIGC Clubs are now setting the standard in athlete and children’s safety and welfare. Through this process, our member clubs will collectively provide a safe gymnastics club environment.”

“The USAIGC is the first gymnastics organization to proactively take an ‘athlete first’ approach,” said Safe4Athletes Founder and former Olympic swimmer, Katherine Starr.  “It’s an organization that is already taking a balanced sports/education lifestyle approach with its college gymnastics compulsory program track.  Now they are taking the important step of protecting every one of their athletes from misconduct as well.” 

 “The USAIGC has drawn the line in the stand,” added Spadero.  “We must do the most we possibly can to protect our student population by creating the safest environment possible for our children.”

“I applaud the USAIGC’s move to adopt the essential policies of Safe4Athletes,” said Dominique Moceanu, herself an Olympic gold medal winning gymnast and author of recent New York Times best selling memoir Off Balance.  “I firmly believe that it is the shared duty of parents, coaches, gym club owners, and governing bodies of sport to give our young athletes a positive learning atmosphere free from any type of abuse, without exception.  Safe4Athletes has created the first comprehensive system of its kind to protect these young athletes -- and the USAIGC has made a tremendously positive move by adopting that system.”

For more information about USAIGC, visit www.USAIGC.com. For more information about Safe4Athletes, visit www.safe4athletes.org.

Media Contact:  Paul Williams, paul@medialinecommunications.com, 949/916-6880.

katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Mon, 24 Jun 2013 14:01:10 -0700
When did the System Fail Kelley Davies Currin and the Rest of Us? http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/55-when-did-the-system-fail-kelley-davies-currin-and-the-rest-of-us? http://safe4athletes.org/blog/item/55-when-did-the-system-fail-kelley-davies-currin-and-the-rest-of-us?

Today Rick Curl was sentenced for 7 years for the sexual abuse of Kelley Currin that happen almost 30 years ago.  Rick has been a free man and participating in life like the rest of us for the past 30 years without any consequence for his actions of sexually abusing this minor swimmer at the time in question.

Why didn’t something happen sooner?  Something did happen.  The family settled a confidential case with an undisclosed amount and a gag order was imposed to prevent anyone from discussing the case. Life was meant to go on as normal and all is good. After all Rick Curl was a good coach.   He produced Olympians and successful swimmers throughout the collegiate system.

Another reason why this didn’t happen earlier is that the type of sexual abuse Rick Curl specialized in orchestrating is considered to be a consensual relationship.   There is nothing consensual about  a minor athlete falling in love with their coach, a significant power figure whose coaching attention can make the difference between an Olympic medal or national record and failure.    The notion of an acceptable consensual romantic relationship between a teacher and student or coach and athlete   violates every legal, moral and ethical principle in our society. Yet these relationships and their acceptance are commonplace in our competitive sports environment especially with our female athletes.  While this is something that everyone would openly say is appalling and should be stopped at all costs especially when it the relationship begins with an under age athlete (under the age of 18).  Yet there are such famous athletes as Lindsay Vonn who started dating her coach at the age of 16, whom she went on to marry and now, recently divorced, is currently in a relationship with Tiger Woods.

When the emotionally immature athlete does not cry “foul”, is being a successful performer and the coach is winning, the rule appears to be “ all good, no harm, no foul”.   A sexually abused athlete may not be able to deal with the reality of such a relationship until twenty years after the fact.   During that period, only that athlete suffers a pain that is so great, they cannot discuss it with anyone.   When the dust settles and the truth of the destruction of the athlete’s life is revealed, the artful acquaintance pedophile still receives sympathy from those who respect his success as a coach.  Worse yet, there are those who believe there is such a circumstance as “consensual” and see no “victim’.   

What is more troubling is that the amateur sport system has failed to clearly state the absolute impermissibility of any romantic relationship between a coach and his athlete.   This coach-athlete relationship issue and other sexual abuse issues are   rampant in sports and considered to be the worst kept secret.

When the next big story hits, and there will be one, and when everyone says, “How could this have happened? Why didn’t someone say something?”  Someone did say something.   We just haven’t been listening.  Many athletes have said something.  US Swimming and other open amateur sports governing bodies just haven’t been listening. Worse yet, turning a blind eye. As the management of USA Swimming has been doing for years. The 30 year time lapse is clearly proof of that.

Since starting Safe4Athletes, I have continued to witness this failure in the system, where speaking up is fought against with public and administrative disbelief, blaming of the victim and victims seeking justice encountering extreme difficulty at every turn.  Parents of these young athletes that have been victims of sexual abuse, come to me and share their stories and all of the extreme efforts that they have gone to protect their child and attempt to “right” the system that has harmed them in unspeakable ways. The efforts of these parents and children are   the most heroic displays of courage that I have ever witnessed   while the  response of those with the power to fix the system simply adds to   their heartache, allows ridicule and fails to deliver justice.    

The system is broken.  Cases of sexual abuse and coach misconduct break our athlete heroes and  reward coach perpetrators.  Sport governing bodies care more about producing winning athletes than their obligation to enforce legal, moral and ethical guidelines established by our society.  . 

We talk about “not doing enough” to protect our young athletes, yet everyone around the situation makes it very difficult to do “anything” let alone enough. 

No coach at any age should be sexual engaged with an athlete. No Olympic dream is worth the lifetime of pain, destruction that sexual abuse brings.  An athlete’s hope and  dreams is all it takes to be vulnerable to the coach pedophile and the failures in this system.

When enough is really enough, when sexual abuse is clearly defined and unacceptable under any circumstance between a coach and an athlete, only then will our sports training environments be safe for children and adult athletes.  Nothing can be more important than our humanity.  We cannot allow  the system to continue to failure us. 


katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Thu, 23 May 2013 15:21:44 -0700