Friday, December 09, 2022

Canadian gymnast opens up about sexual, emotional abuse by Olympic coach

A former member of Canada’s national gymnastics team wrote a public letter accusing the country’s 2016 Olympic coach of climbing onto a bed and pressing his body against her, reaching his hand under her shirt and trying to expose her breasts Put it.

The letter from 38-year-old Abby Pearson Spadafora revealed the latest in a long series of allegations of sexual, emotional and physical abuse by coaches Dave and Elizabeth Brubaker, who have been banned by Gymnastics Canada.

“The abuse never stopped,” Spadafora wrote in its letter released Thursday. “My men’s coach regularly cut off the back of my sports bra when I started wearing them. I was taught that weight gain and puberty is a bad thing. Injuries were rarely taken seriously, and I was taught to hide the pain.”

Spadafora said she began training 25-35 hours a week at age 7 and was weighed twice a day.

“This is when the grooming started that led to years of abuse,” she said of her training, which began around 1991.

A group of 11 gymnasts, including Spadafora, have come forward to elaborate on the abuse at the Bluewater Gymnastics Club in Ontario. He participated in an investigation by Gymnastics Canada that led to the banning of Brubakers. Spadafora and another athlete have criticized the investigation. Saying that it again struck him as he was urged not to say anything in public, fearing that it would be used against him in the trial process.

Read more: Gymnastics team, tired of ‘sexualization’, wears unitards

Some 480 athletes have signed a petition calling on the Canadian government to launch an independent third-party investigation into abuse at the club.

Dave Brubecker, who coached the Canadian Olympic team in 2016, was found not guilty of sexual assault and sexual assault in 2019, when a judge in a case involving a former gymnast revealed that the officer investigating Brubaker was related to the alleged victim. Was.

His life ban from Gymnastics Canada, and his wife’s ban until January 18, 2024, was granted earlier this year after a disciplinary panel confirmed 54 counts of misconduct by Brubakers. Brubakers initially appealed their sanctions, but withdrew the appeal in March.

Patrick Ducharm, the attorney representing the Brubakers in the sexual assault lawsuit, did not immediately return an email from the Associated Press.

In his open letter, Spadafora stated that the abuse in the early years was mostly physical. She described an incident in which her coach placed her in a handstand on a low bar 5 feet off the ground, then pushed her hands off the bar forcing her to crash into the mat headfirst.

“He repeated this several times and not once did he look at me to move,” she wrote. “I was eleven! I was scared and wanted to cry, but I knew I couldn’t for fear of retribution.”

Advocacy group Global Athlete issued a statement saying that Spadafora should be commended for her bravery to come forward and tell her story.

“His brave stance of sharing his life experience to prevent such common behavior deserves to be shared,” the statement said.

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