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Do We Have Pedophiles for Coaches on Olympic U.S. Girls Swim Teams?
How can parents protect their kids from sexual predators in a coaching situation? How bad is the sexual misconduct culture with the US Olympic Swimmers and their coaches?
Brian Ross this week on ABC 20/20 reports there is a culture of sexual misconduct with the swimmers and coaches that seems to have been ignored.
What do the swimmers who try out for the Olympics have to look forward to? For most, world viewership, powerful and prestigious goals, and lifetime achievements are why kids sacrifice and work hard for so many years.
For some, they find themselves victims of a sexual predator that has ingrained himself within the community, has gained the trust of their parents and uses the threat of losing their life's passion, fear of stopping swimming, as a strangle-hold over these young girls so that they won't tell about the sexual molestation and rapes.
For example, take Brian Hindson who was considered to be a good coach because he made swimmers faster. The ABC clip shows a man slapping a girl's genitals as part of coaching. Another man with his arm wrapped around the girl, and another kissing another one on the lips.
In Indiana, Brooke Taflinger trusted Brian as her coach, and never questioned why he had her go into a special area of the locker area to undress and shower when the other swimmers went to a more common area.
Later the FBI discovered the recording equipment, after he sold one of his personal computers and a woman found a video of a naked young girl who apparently didn't know she was being recorded. The woman reported it to authorities who later traced the video back to the school, found the equipment and then had the parents identify the students. Brooke's dad said it "was really tough to see his daughter in that predicament."
Unfortunately, Brian and Brooke's case is not unique. Thirty-six coaches in all have been banned from the sport and charged with sexual misconduct in the last decade. Many of these coaches have been abusing girls for decades.
Another example is Andrew (Andy) King, now 62 years old who had abused more than a dozen victims before a 14 year-old young girl turned him in. According to San Jose Valley Prosecutor Ray Mendoza, "King was a monster and his crimes went back decades."
Deborah Denthor says her abuse "started with a hug, then a caress, and then it lead to a kiss. That turned into a deeper kiss, then fondling, and then intercourse when she was 15-1/2." Some of the parents suspected it but no one knew and she didn't say anything at the time because of the power and control her coach had over her.
"He warned me not to say anything, "says Deborah. "He told me, you know how important it is that you keep this secret. Otherwise you won't be able to swim anymore." Deb said at that time in her life, swimming was her whole life. Andy King was sentenced to 40 years in prison earlier this year.
How big is the problem?
There are 12,000 coaches in the US and 36 have been accused over the last decade. I'm not a math expert but just thinking out loud for a minute - many of these coaches have been accused for instances that spanned over decades with several different girls.
36 coaches x 10 years = 360 years, then I thought about the victims and number of occurrences. Assuming these girls work day in-and-day-out, 365 days a year, a 5% sexual occurrence rate would be maybe 18 times a year. It would include inappropriate touching and inappropriate communications.
I have no idea if this is an accurate number; I'm just throwing it out for the sake of argument.
I took the 360 years (aggregate of all) and multiplied it by the average hypothetical occurrence rate of 5%, and it came out to be a conservate 6480 occurrences that were already confirmed . I'm not a whiz at math , so if I have erred, I know you will help me out on this. But there is a strong chance that there are other coaches out there that are doing this, and that have not been reported.
What is important to take away is that it is the frequency or the number of occurrences and not the number of accused that should be focused on. If there is a culture problem, awareness is the first step. Talking about it, and helping people become aware is the first step.
ABC reporter Brian Ross played a tape of Mr. Wielgus speaking at a coach's convention where he said, "We get calls at the office and I get informed about it. Someone is going to link this together!" Linking what together is my question.
On the tape, his tone with the coaches was urgent, whereas he seemed to make light of the situation with Brian Ross. That would be natural given each individual audience. I could see the frustration in his face but my impression was that he was more concerned with the legal ramifications and potential bad publicity of the interview, than what was actually happening with these coaches and girls.
USA Swimming is accused of failing to conduct better background checks.
Chuck said, "Any and every time a complaint lodged, it is turned over to legal counsel and then local authorities are contacted. Some of the complaints involve sexual texts, flirting, and cases where the swimmer accuses a coach of crossing the line. If she has a complaint - she needs to put it in writing.
It should be noted that the U.S.A. swimming governance does have a policy in place, and they do recommend that reports be given to local authorities. They also are committed to providing a safe and healthy atmosphere for swimmers according to their website.
What can parents do to help protect their children from sexual predators?
• First off, they can check the local listings for sexual predators on parent watches "Find Registered Offenders".
• Parents can call the old employers and parents to inquire about the history of the swimming coaches previous employers.
• Parents can also stay involved and trust their gut instincts. They should keep the lines of communication open and talk to their girls and make sure they know what is inappropriate, even from the coach.
• If parents think something is wrong, they should report it to their local authorities and the U.S.A. swimming governance
ABC television, 20/20 April 9, 2020, Sexual Misconduct in U.S. Swimming