Categorized | News, Sports, Television, US

Swimming Coaches Scandal Of Sexual Abuse Sees 36 Banned In 10 Years

They are comparing it to the sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church for the past decade or so.  Across the United States, 36 swimming coaches have been banned from coaching for life over the past 10 years  for sexual misconduct by USA Swimming, the governing body of the sport up to and including the U. S. Olympic Swim Team.  ABC’s news program “20/20” highlighted the scandal Friday night, speaking to star swimmer Brooke Taflinger and others caught in the web of sexual abuse that now sees USA Swimming being sued for not doing enough to protect the children in their charge. 

One Indiana swimming coach noted that sexual abuse is pervasive in the system.  Ken Stopkotte, the 2009 Indiana High School Boys Swimming and Diving State Coach, said it has been going on the entire time he’s been coaching — 27 years.  He also notes that swimming coaches talk about it all the time. 

USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus was defensive about the scandal.  “It’s not nearly as serious in USA Swimming as it might be in the rest of society.”  When asked if he had apologized to any of the victims, he questioned ABC’s Brian Ross, “You feel that I need to apologize to them?”  He admitted that the situation was tragic.  Still, he said, “I think it’s unfair for you to ask me whether individually or me as the representative of an organization to apologize for something when all we are trying to do is everything we possibly can to create a safe and healthy environment for kids who are participating in our particular activity.”

Parents believe USA Swimming has put its reputation ahead of protective measures, promoting itself at the expense of imposing preventive measures and safeguards to ensure that the coaches in charge of the young swimmers are protected against molesters and sexual predators.   Sexual predators like Andy King, who was 62 when he was finally convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for sexual abuse.  Police found a pattern of abuse that spread over three decades and along the West Coast.  At least 15 young girls were sexually abused, and Santa Clara County prosecutor Ray Mendoza said that the list of sex acts committed ran the gamut.  He was finally stopped when a 14-year-old in San Jose told her youth pastor what King had been doing with her.

Adding insult to injury was the fact that USA Swimming had given Andy King a cursory background check, just a simple criminal background check, doing not one background interview at any of the schools and facilities where he had worked previously.  Had they done so, they would have found a trail of complaints and suspected improprieties. 

It is this moving from facility to facility or school to school that keeps the swimming coaches out of jail and ahead of suspicion or investigation.  It is somewhat reminiscent of the Catholic Church’s transfer of sexually abusive priests from one diocese to another to avoid scandal and/or investigation.

Brooke Taflinger said that she had trusted her coach.  She thought nothing of it when he directed her to a “special shower.”  Brooke Taflinger’s coach, Brian Hindson, had installed cameras in two high school pools where he coached and filmed unsuspecting young girls taking showers for almost ten years.  Brooke Taflinger’s parents were called in by local police and the FBI to identify their daughter.

“It was a sense of betrayal,” Brooke Taflinger explained her initial reaction.

Brian Hindson may have never been caught had it not been for a woman in North Carolina who bought a computer from him on e-Bay.  She found a video clip of a young girl in a locker room.  Authorities searched Hindson’s home and found more locker footage and child pornography.  Ultimately, Brian Hindson was convicted and sentenced to 33 years in prison.

But USA Swimming’s Chuck Wielgus doesn’t feel the need to apologize to any of the victims. 

Brooke Taflinger was not the only young swimmer filmed without her knowledge in that Indiana high school shower, nor was the other young girl taped in the locker room his only victim with that camera.  Victims like Sarah Rutkowski wonder and worry about the tapes and where they may be. 

And those 15 known victims of Andy King are just the abused that authorities know about.  Many will never come forward.  Some because of humiliation and/or embarrassment.  Some because of fear, having been threatened in some manner.  Some because they are now dead (King is 62).  Some because they have gotten on with their lives and are unaware of the investigation. 

And that is true of so many more victims of other swimming coaches, both those that have been caught and prosecuted during the scandal and those that have not. 

As Coach Stopkotte said, sexual abuse among swimming coaches is pervasive.  

Only 36 have been caught and banned from USA Swimming.

And USA Swimming does not feel the need to apologize for anything…

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