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Investigation reveals widespread sexual exploitation of gymnasts

An extensive investigation conducted by USA Today and the Indianapolis Star found the rampant sexual exploitation of young gymnasts, primarily girls, by coaches, assistants, and other people associated with competitive gymnastics. The investigation covers a broad period from the 1980s to the present and details the culture in USA Gymnastics (the overarching USA Olympics gymnastic organization) that enabled sexual predators to continue coaching students, even after evidence of their impropriety had arisen.

 

The investigation identified 368 victims who ranged in age from 6 to 16. The abuse was varied from taking surreptitious video and photographs while the girls were changing to outright sex and sexual exploitation of competitors. The abusers were coaches, assistants, and gym staff. The victims were both amateurs and national competitors.

The investigation also found a pervasive culture that prioritized the image of USA gymnastics over the well-being of its participants. Victims were regularly ignored or cowed into silence because they feared for their gymnastic careers. The girls were stuck in a difficult position of trying to escape the abuse, while not alienating any potential judges because gymnastics is inherently subjective therefore the politics of the sport matter greatly.

Several coaches have been arrested however no national campaign or investigation has been launched therefore the actual extent of the abuse is still unknown.

While in-depth investigations, like this one, are critical to keeping government, companies, and organizations honest, they can have unintended side-effects. Once these stories break into the national conversation, police and prosecutors are placed under pressure to find suspects as quickly as possible, which can spur them to cut corners during investigations. If you are under investigation or are charged with sexual misconduct, you may want to contact a lawyer for help. A defense attorney can go over your case and help you determine the best course of action for your defense.

Source: The IndyStar and USA Today, "A 20-year toll: 368 gymnasts allege sexual exploitation," Tim Evans, Mark Alesia, and Marisa Kwiatkowski, December 15, 2016

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