Ashley Wagner reveals she was assaulted by John Coughlin

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karmena

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There was a period if time when Bridget did move to Colorado Springs to train. My daughter had just started skating at Skating Club of Wilmington and at one of the club events I spoke to her mother who mentioned the move. Being new to the skating world, it really surprised me and was even more strange to me that her parents would allow her to go alone and stay with another family. Her mom said “this is her dream and we want to do everything possible to help her”. Mom also said that she was going to fly out every two weeks to visit Bridget. I don’t recall how long Bridget stayed in CO or who her coach was while she was there.

… and Coughlin ruined her dream and much more. Oh, I wish for Bridget to get back her inner freedom and spark of life, and confidence...to flourish, to be...

Coughlin's case... certainly it is/was a pathology. A normal man- to more or less extent- do feel remorse after doing something hurtful or wrong to the other human being. He even did not write any note of " I am sorry" for the victims or his own family. Neither he said Ashley sorry those many years ago. A normal individual ( psychologically normal) is willing to change oneself and is able to see what he is doing wrong; a pathological man neither can see his wrong doings or want to change anything.
But they can easily manipulate people around them and left everyone in good impression.
 

AxelAnnie

Like a small boat on the ocean...
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I don’t sense anger, but I do see a lack of compassion for those survivors who haven’t acted in ways that you deem appropriate. You are quite judgmental in fact.
I have compassion. No one man...boy...woman or child should be assaulted by anyone.

It takes courage to speak out. And the sooner one does the faster the accused can refute or confess. And the sooner the road is made safer for those behind you. In CA the sol is 10 years. I think RAINN has a better platform and method for handling these cases.

I am not sure SafeSport is a just arbitrator. The most famous horse trainer for ever....was just banned from the sport for accusations that someone recently made about something he claims happened 50 years ago.
 

okokok777

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I have compassion. No one man...boy...woman or child should be assaulted by anyone.

It takes courage to speak out. And the sooner one does the faster the accused can refute or confess. And the sooner the road is made safer for those behind you. In CA the sol is 10 years. I think RAINN has a better platform and method for handling these cases.

I am not sure SafeSport is a just arbitrator. The most famous horse trainer for ever....was just banned from the sport for accusations that someone recently made about something he claims happened 50 years ago.

GM was not banned because of one 50 year old accusation. Sarah Nir will be releasing the full NYTimes report soon. I'm all for expressing your opinion but I suggest waiting until you hear the whole story before presenting those opinions as facts.

@another sk8rmom I grew up in Newark and knew quite a few people who trained at Fred Rust. I remember overhearing my friends older siblings talk about Bridget moving to Colorado Springs with John. I also remember a few people on social media tried to use the move as "proof" that she wasn't abused. I ended up losing touch with my skating friends for a few years around the same time and never did find out who coached them while they were there. It's heartbreaking to look back in hindsight.
 

Artistic Skaters

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skatfan

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I have compassion. No one man...boy...woman or child should be assaulted by anyone.

It takes courage to speak out. And the sooner one does the faster the accused can refute or confess. And the sooner the road is made safer for those behind you. In CA the sol is 10 years. I think RAINN has a better platform and method for handling these cases.

I am not sure SafeSport is a just arbitrator. The most famous horse trainer for ever....was just banned from the sport for accusations that someone recently made about something he claims happened 50 years ago.

That is all about the system. And you did not refute my statement that you lack compassion about those who don’t do what you think they should - speak out sooner. You know why they don’t. But you judge them.

And that guy caught and banned? Good. Why should he get away with it now because a lot of time has passed. They had enough evidence. I’d say the same thing if it turned out Dick Button had done something similar.
 

Coco

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@AxelAnnie I'm curious, what do you mean you handled it yourself? If you don't want to discuss it, don't do so on my account.
 

puglover

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As a civilized society we improve by shining a light on those things that we realize are harmful so they are not repeated (hopefully). Sending the 80 something year old Bill Cosby to jail for victimizing multiple women over decades is less, to me, about punishing him, although he deserves it - but way more about sending a clear message that even if you are beloved, rich, powerful, if you have behaved disgustingly with impunity - your day will come! Let's hope the tragedy of John Coughlin and others serves as a wake up call to potential abusers, coaching and support staff, sports federations, parents - everyone - that we're not going to take this anymore! I also hope we don't get caught up in the semantics of how, when, etc. reports are made - and the big picture is what matters. Figure skating is a sport full of young, vulnerable people who need to be safe and protected.
 

UGG

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I have compassion. No one man...boy...woman or child should be assaulted by anyone.

It takes courage to speak out. And the sooner one does the faster the accused can refute or confess. And the sooner the road is made safer for those behind you. In CA the sol is 10 years. I think RAINN has a better platform and method for handling these cases.

I am not sure SafeSport is a just arbitrator. The most famous horse trainer for ever....was just banned from the sport for accusations that someone recently made about something he claims happened 50 years ago.

Do you feel the same about Simone Biles and the other gymnasts who did not come forward about Nassar until much later than lesser known gymnasts?
 

Winnipeg

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Someone mentioned Cosby. Not to make the other assaults less, it seems his were even more reprehensible because he gave drugs to the women so they could not fight back and it could have put them in danger if they had a reaction to those drugs (you never know).
 

overedge

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Out of curiosity, do the US and Canadian SafeSport organisations work together at all?

Skate Canada's SafeSport initiative is pretty much in-house at the moment:

There are some requirements, like coaches having background checks, that IIRC are mandatory for all federally funded sports and/or activities where adults are supervising kids.

I don't know what the situation is in other sports.
 

AxelAnnie

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Do you feel the same about Simone Biles and the other gymnasts who did not come forward about Nassar until much later than lesser known gymnasts?


Yes, I do. Simone and others, had a huge platform from which she could have made a huge difference for other victims who did not have fame.

With Nassar, it was very, very complicated and duplicitous. He molested these kids sometimes with the parents in the room. If your parent is giving approval. The man was a physician. He was the doctor for the association. Every where those girls looked, people loved Larry. That is a lot of bravery to ask. So, I understand and have compassion. And had say, Simone came forward, perhaps others would have stepped forward with her.

Sister survivors: 12 women, part of the army that brought down Larry Nassar, share their story. It was not easy for these girls/women. But they they told their raw and difficult stories in spite of their fear and embarrassment.

There is no blame from me. More of a sadness that they could have saved others had they told their stories.

From Franklin Rosevelt:
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.
 

aftershocks

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This should not be about the victims being targeted for not coming forward and being shamed or finger-pointed because they didn't come forward right away, or in some cases at all. It's more about recognizing that there is an entire culture of abuse and of silence. There are victims of abuse being violated as we speak because that's the world and the culture we live in. For there to be lasting and real change, an understanding needs to evolve regarding how figure skating culture, sports culture generally, entertainment culture, the culture-at-large, and our society historically down through the ages has condoned (subtly, explicitly, willingly and unwittingly) all kinds of acts of sexual abuse, misogyny, physical and emotional harassment, domestic violence, workplace psychological and emotional violence, etc.

For lasting change and for healing, there needs to be an end to projecting outward, blaming, finger-pointing, and taking positions that might make us feel better about ourselves and that allow us to ignore our own complicity. We live in this culture, we are human, we are complicit. The question is: How do we move forward from here? How does the skating community move forward without becomng a 360-degree lynch mob on one hand, and on the other hand lashing out in disbelief, which has already happened on the other hand? Allow people to grieve and please be open to compassion for ourselves and for everyone involved. For those who thought they knew John, it must be a double grief, vast and all consuming, and obviously there are no words for what the victims have endured, and for what all victims of sexual violation continue to suffer in this world...
 
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Japanfan

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Unfortunately, it seems that some of the heated reactions in this thread are taking place because many of us are projecting outward, rather than making any effort to look deeper at our own culpability, no matter how small. I say this because when I recently reviewed a video of Coughlin and Namiotka from many years ago, I was confronted with how visibly thin she was. Did no one ask questions at the time? Didn't we all simply watch and enjoy the performance of this young pair and go on about our business? Did any of us slightly raise our eyebrows and wonder about the abnormal thinness of her frame, but then simply shrug our shoulders and turn away? I suppose some posters believe Dalilah is also solely responsible for contributing to or for not doing anything about Namiotka's eating disorder.

Your seem to be referring to our own culpability in the sense that we don't question whether skaters have eating disorders, or something like that. First of all, that is an entirely different thing than engaging in an illegal, harmful actual such as sexual assault.

Second, I don't know the skater in question, but would be very surprised if people on this board didn't ask questions about her possibly having an ED on this board. It's a discussion we have fairly often, most recently with a focus on Gold and Daleman.

Surely no one who doesn't wish to be there feels 'stuck' at Dalilah Sappenfield's rink, especially not after the diatribes in this thread.

You don't know that. There are plenty of reasons why a skater could feel stuck at the rink. The skater might have a strong bond with the coach, even though the bond may not be healthy. The conditions that characterize working with the coach might be ideal (e.g. location, cost, ice time, presence of other skaters). And the parents may favor the coach for some reason.

Also, if things aren't good, the skater might not feel empowered to talk about them.

Also, a coach is an authority figure and has power over the skater to a certain extent. So a skater may try to justify the relationship with that coach, even if some things about it see wrong.
 

aftershocks

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Your seem to be referring to our own culpability in the sense that we don't question whether skaters have eating disorders, or something like that. First of all, that is an entirely different thing than engaging in an illegal, harmful actual such as sexual assault.

Second, I don't know the skater in question, but would be very surprised if people on this board didn't ask questions about her possibly having an ED on this board. It's a discussion we have fairly often, most recently with a focus on Gold and Daleman.

Yeah, your take is your take. Everyone's emotions are high surounding this tragedy. If you don't understand the larger implications of what I'm expressing, there's no point to engage in a holier-than-thou, one-upmanship match. You perceive what I have expressed in the light you are perceiving it.

The eating disorder is a separate situation that also existed, and I spoke about it in reference to the video I linked. That's a broader implication of a problem that clearly should have been looked at more closely by the people around Bridget in order to ensure her long term health. It seems to me that the fact she had pancreatitis which can lead to weight loss, that unfortunately assumptions were made without examining things too closely. Me saying that we were all complicit back then is simply referencing the cultural norm of that time of ignoring or not recognizing signs that something is not quite right when seeing someone that thin. In hindsight, the question I ask is whether or not no one around Bridget wanted to truly see that it wasn't just pancreatitis. Sadly, the pancreatitis seems to have become a convenient public excuse for why she was so abnormally thin.

The fact that it was surely known that John and Bridget were 'dating' is another part of what was going on in their partnership. Part of the cultural norm in figure skating among fans is to 'ship' two skating partners. Plus, pairs skaters perform to romantic themes generally, even at a young age. So what are the broader implications of that, particularly regarding underage skaters? It's a question to ask ourselves. Sadly, no one around John and Bridget apparently stopped to question their age difference at that time in terms of them 'dating.' The other sad thing is as we know Bridget felt coerced and abused. If she couldn't voice it to herself at the time due to her age and naive perceptions, it certainly did not feel right, and thus she suffered with it for a long time, as it became more and more horribly apparent to her. Or, if she began to realize at the time or shortly thereafter that she was experiencing abuse, and she revealed it to someone in authority and was ignored or put down, that must have been a further trauma.

As far as complicity, again it would be the complicity of the cultural norm of two young people dating despite a four-year-age gap, and Bridget being under age when John turned 18. But it was considered okay then and it was condoned because apparently no one objected to it at the time, or took John aside and advised him to not date underage girls and/or underage female skating partners.

Let's also not forget that figure skating is an insular world in which John as a male, and further as a straight male figure skater, was doubly valued and thus he received precedence over "a sea of female teenagers..." Something was clearly awry with his thinking and with his behavior. But it went either unnoticed or the extent of his misdeeds was not fully known. Still, he could have seen his behavior as okay if he was continually privileged, looked up to, prized, and got his own way without anyone ever making it clear he should not be dating, and certainly not 'grooming' underage females.

The issue of eating disorders, and the issue of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct in all parts of our culture is something that is now being brought front and center as it should be, and so there is now much more awareness. But we are still in the throes of cultural change and serious reckoning. There needs to be further education across-the-board and open communication about these issues, again without blaming and shaming and becoming overly offended. These are difficult issues to discuss. But this terrible tragedy that hits so close to home, I think, should cause us all to look within and to examine our own lives. I feel fortunate to have dodged some bullets, but I have, as all humans have, experienced unpleasant human interactions that are painful. Anyone who has been lucky enough to have never experienced a painful human interaction or betrayal or violation of one sort or another, then surely you know someone close to you who has. What do we do with what happens to us? That's another question.

You don't know that. There are plenty of reasons why a skater could feel stuck at the rink. The skater might have a strong bond with the coach, even though the bond may not be healthy. The conditions that characterize working with the coach might be ideal (e.g. location, cost, ice time, presence of other skaters). And the parents may favor the coach for some reason.

Also, if things aren't good, the skater might not feel empowered to talk about them.

Also, a coach is an authority figure and has power over the skater to a certain extent. So a skater may try to justify the relationship with that coach, even if some things about it see wrong.

Yeah, I don't know. That's why I qualified my comment with 'surely under the present circumstances...' Meaning I hope that anyone who feels threatened or uncomfortable or pressured and unhappy, will speak to someone they trust. If young people don't speak out, then surely their parents are sensitive enough and cognizant enough at this juncture to sit down and talk to their children about how they are feeling. Anyone who isn't happy for whatever reason should not stay in an uncomfortable training situation. It won't benefit them in the short term or in the long term. Plus, it is very important for us all to take personal responsibility, and to stop making excuses.

When someone is being sexually victimized, of course that's a terrible situation that is violating, emotionally damaging and confusing for minors. But with more awareness, hopefully victims can begin to trust speaking out, and to recognize that they do not have to continue putting up with abuse. However, I'm not going to make the assumption that there is currently someone experiencing sexual abuse at Sappenfield's rink. If there is, I would urge them to seek help immediately. That's what this expanding cultural awareness of the need for change is all about. And let's face it, there's just as much likelihood that students are fine with the training and environment at Sappenfield's rink. Once again, if that's not the case, something needs to change.
 
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J

Jeschke

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@AxelAnnie Do you really have to re-hash the point over and over again that you think they should have spoken up earlier? Repeating it endlessly is not going to make anyone agree with it.
On a fair note, the poster was asked a question to which he/she replied.
This thread is full of arguments (which are more approved by majority in here) repeated over and over again by the same persons and none of them ever got a call.
This is a forum after all.
 

Japanfan

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We live in this culture, we are human, we are complicit.

Aftershocks, I agree with most of your post, but don't think you can make the sweeping statements that 'we are complicit'.

Perhaps most of us are, but there have always been people willing to be whistleblowers.

I'm reminded of the film 'The Whistleblower'. It was about an American woman in the army who went to Bosnia (IIRC) as part of a special security detail. While there, she uncovered as sex slavery operation. At considerable risk to herself and even her life, she got the pertinent information out and took it to a high authority in the UK.

And the authority did. . .nothing. :(

It's an excellent film and I recommend it - but is a hard one to watch. Some of the scenes about the things done to the girls were pretty much unbearable to watch.
 

ice crystal

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Let's also not forget that figure skating is an insular world in which John as a male, and further as a straight male figure skater, was doubly valued and thus he received precedence over "a sea of female teenagers..." Something was clearly awry with his thinking and with his behavior. But it went either unnoticed or the extent of his misdeeds was not fully known. Still, he could have seen his behavior as okay if he was continually privileged, looked up to, prized, and got his own way without anyone ever making it clear he should not be dating, and certainly not 'grooming' underage females.


(Emphasis added)

Are you serious, Aftershocks? :wall:

This whole sad and sorry situation makes me enjoy certain teams even more. For example Cain/LeDuc, Duhamel/Radford or the ones who are in known relationships with people outside of their team. I have developed a new appreciation of watching these teams where we can be sure it is purely about the sport and nothing else muddies the water.
 

nimi

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I am not sure SafeSport is a just arbitrator. The most famous horse trainer for ever....was just banned from the sport for accusations that someone recently made about something he claims happened 50 years ago.
GM was not banned because of one 50 year old accusation. Sarah Nir will be releasing the full NYTimes report soon. I'm all for expressing your opinion but I suggest waiting until you hear the whole story before presenting those opinions as facts.
I just came across the Sarah Nir article (she tweeted that she interviewed 53 people for her story):
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/08/sports/george-morris.html

I know next to nothing about equestrian sports and I don't want to derail this thread, but... I just saw another piece of equestrian news and I'm appalled: On Wednesday, a woman was shot (allegedly) by her trainer, a prominent equestrian called Michael Baritone, who's been charged with attempted murder and weapons charges. The victim had reportedly posted on her Facebook about being bullied and made some references to SafeSport. I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that there are some people in the dressage community who rush to defend the (alleged) shooter and victim-blame and say she's the bully who had it coming but... Ugh. :(
(Thank heavens it appears that the shooting victim still alive but remains in critical condition UPDATE: and "has been upgraded to stable condition as of Thursday night, friends said", according to nj.com)
 
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misskarne

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I am not sure SafeSport is a just arbitrator. The most famous horse trainer for ever....was just banned from the sport for accusations that someone recently made about something he claims happened 50 years ago.

And I wasn't sure you were a heartless bitch until this thread but...oh wait, no, no, I did know that. Because you show it every time a story like this comes out.
 

Tavi

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I am not angry at Ashley. I don't know why you think that.

Because that’s how you sounded to me and because you seemed to be judging Ashley harshly. I don’t know if that’s what you felt - you state in a later post that you just felt sad - but that’s how it came across to me.

Reporting someone in no way guarantees that future victims will be spared. In her statement at Larry Nassar’s sentencing, Rachael Denhollander described repeated failures by MSU to believe the young women who reported him or to take effective action.

And there are so many ways to disbelieve a victim: Why did you wait so long? It was all a misunderstanding. It was a medical test, not abuse. Your boss at work wasn’t really touching you inappropriately or making inappropriately sexual remarks. You went on a date with this guy / were drinking at a party / have been flirting with him for weeks - so don’t accuse him of date rape now.

And when the abuser is a powerful or popular person - as John Coughlin was - or where two people are part of the same small, insular community - as John and Ashley were - speaking up is much harder. It often requires more than ordinary courage, because the community may be turned upside down and you may be ostracized. Not everyone is prepared to face that at a young age. In many cases, ongoing abuse has been an open secret in closed communities for years, and people simply look the other way. That appears to have been true of trainer Jimmy Williams and the equestrian community. It was certainly true of conductor James Levine and the opera world - which is probably why the Met ended up settling the case. It’s impossible that management at the Met didn’t know about Levine - but they waited years to take action. I don’t know if it was true of John Coughlin, but I think judging Ashley and others for not having stepped forward sooner is part of the problem, not a solution.


 
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Lacey

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Ashley to be on Today Show 3rd Hour 9am edition today: advertised as: Behind the Headline, Ashley Wagner, who hopes for changes that will protect the next generation of athletes. Hosts today are Lester Holt, Al Roker and Dylan Dreyer, and it turned out Lester was not part of the story. But this was Network TV.

Ashley did an excellent job. I have always found her to be well spoken and she did not disappoint here. Al introduced the John Coughlin story. Ashley gave a succinct personal thought process saying she told US Figure Skating her story about a month or so after US Nationals after she organized her thoughts in order to try to protect new and future skaters when a 13 old was selected Ladies Champion. The names of those involved were just parts of the puzzle. Dylan brought up that it sounded like there needed to be chaperones where ages 13 to 22 (and we know possibly over) were present. Ashley said in the past up to this year USFS sent judges (who might be yours in the competition and who therefore one might fear while potentially reporting such a big story) to be chaperones and now that has changed to professional chaperones.
 
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nimi

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Here's the interview with Ashley from this morning's Today show :
I was having some issues with the Today.com site, but found the segment on YT.
As always, don't read the comment section!


Towards the end, Ashley explains that the USFS has now changed its policy on chaperones, who are now outsiders trained to protect kids (as opposed to some official who's going to be sitting on the judging panel...) so that's good news.
 

aftershocks

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Are you serious, Aftershocks? :wall:

Are you unaware of the fact that gay figure skaters had to hide the fact that they were gay, back-in-the-day? Sadly, yes, I'm serious that straight, male figure skaters have historically been privileged. If there's anyone who believes otherwise, maybe do some research and talk to the skaters who lived the experience of what it was like having to pretend to be something they were not.
 
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