Horrifying News About Sexual Abuse in This Sport Is a Mom's Nightmare


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After we all watched the US Olympics gymnastics team flip, tumble, and twist their way to gold, there's been more interest in the sport than ever. But evidence following a nine-month investigation by IndyStar reveals that over the past two decades, 368 child gymnasts have been sexually abused by their coaches and other adults involved in the sport. 

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The news is beyond disturbing -- especially because the investigation found that coaches who had been accused of sexual abuse were allowed to work with other children in different gyms.

The allegations span the gamut of abuse, with some coaches accused of photographing 6-year-olds in the nude, while another reportedly "had sex" consistently with a 14-year-old (we call that rape).  

Jeffrey Bettman, one former coach, was found to have child pornography in 2012 and pleaded guilty earlier this year. During that investigation, it came to light that while coaching, Bettman had made 469 videos of 49 young gymnasts by putting secret cameras in gym locker rooms. Though he'd been fired from gyms for "creepy behavior," and even had an allegation made against him by a parent for molesting her child, he was allowed to continue coaching at gyms certified by USA Gymnastics, the national governing body of gymnastics.

Unbelievable.

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In its statement to IndyStar, USA Gymnastics said, "We are saddened when any athlete has been harmed in the course of his or her gymnastics career."

Pretty weak, right? 

It's almost impossible to imagine that other adults could know this was going on and still look the other way -- and yet we know it goes on all the time. From college football scandals to the Catholic church, it seems that all too often children become innocent victims because adults choose to stand by and do nothing. It's horrifying. 

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No matter what sport your children choose to play, when you drop them off, you are putting all your trust in the coach or the adults who are instructing, coaching, or mentoring them. While not every interaction is going to be a positive one, you never, ever think that you're actually putting them at risk and placing them directly into the hands of a predator. 

Children are naturally afraid or ashamed to come forward in situations like these, and the ability to articulate what happened to them becomes that much harder if they think they may not be able to play a sport they love or get a chance to compete if they expose their coach -- which means statistics may be even more alarming when you consider those who haven't come forward.

Now that this information is available, there's hope that coaches will be held to a new level of accountability and these children will be free to enjoy the sport they love without being in danger. Anything else is unthinkable.

 

For anyone needing help or support regarding a sexual abuse situation, Darkness to Light provides a toll-free number, 1-866-FOR-LIGHT (866-367-5444), which is available to individuals living in the United States. Any individual, child or adult who needs resources about sexual abuse can call the Helpline. 

All calls are confidential and will be answered by a trained information and referral service representative. 

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