Saturday, November 19, 2011

Don Peters, Jen Sey and Abuse

(Property of OC Register)
I'd like to preface this in a similar way that Spanny did a few weeks ago by saying: It's fun to talk about up and coming girls, days in the life and Olympic predictions, but I feel like this is something that needs to be addressed. I've been going back and forth for the past few weeks on whether or not to give my opinion on this whole Don Peters situation. I started this blog to talk about what's going on in the gymnastics world, and this is relevant in the gymnastics world, so I feel like it deserves a post.

As you almost certainly know, former US National Team Coach Don Peters was accused of sexually assaulting Doe Yamashiro along with at least a dozen other girls. While the statute of limitations is up, USAG has "permanently banned" Peters and removed him from the USAG Hall of Fame. Until this year, the term "permanently banned" only meant that he couldn't participate in USAG meets, but he could work in USAG gyms. Luckily, this term was changed this year as to prevent him, and other "banned" coaches from working in USAG establishments. 

1986 National Champion Jen Sey said this to the Orange County Register
"In the microcosmic world of hyper-competitive athletics, a high-performance culture where winning trumps all, obvious moral choices become blurred. The sport, the team, a berth on the squad, a medal on the stand – that becomes the priority. The parents, coaches and teams put everything else aside in honor of the win. "

While Jen did know Don Peters first hand, I have to disagree with her here. 

In my opinion, it isn't fair for Jennifer Sey to blame this horrific tragedy on elite gymnastics. Elite gymnastics is not the problem. There are sick adults everywhere who prey on children.  Sexual abuse happens everywhere. To the rich, the poor, in gymnastics, in football, in choirs, in churches, in schools, it happens everywhere. Statistically, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually assaulted by age 18. Some estimates are even higher.

The only thing I can really say is: be alert. 90% of perpetrators are someone who the child knows. If your child is a gymnast, a football player, a mathlete or a dancer, pay attention to the people who surround them. And most importantly, if your child comes to you and says that something is wrong: listen to him/her. Children very rarely say that they are abused when they aren't.

"Looking back, I was hoping someone, anyone, an adult with some common sense would have done something. But no one did. " - Jennifer Sey

Don't let that be your child, or a child who you interact with. Be the one who cares and be the one who can break the silence. It shouldn't have to take 25 years for survivors to feel safe enough to speak up. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree. Elite gymnastics/ USA isn't to blame so long as the system does not create situations where children are put in harms way. In all environments involving the care of children it is vital that there are checks in place to support their safety. Things like USA gymnastics 'a female coach must always be on the competition floor' rule is a good example of a measure to protect young female gymnasts. Whilst it is horrible that this abuse occurred, it serves to remind the gymnastics community that the 'athletes' are also, for the most part, children and that we have to be vigilant in scrutinizing the behaviour of people whom children build trust with.