Brennan article: (USFSA) Chief says figure skating does not have culture of sexual abuse

wickedwitch

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Wagner: “Skating has a history of fostering and creating power imbalances that thrive in dark corners, and to believe that all of these cases are unrelated to the culture of figure skating is either grossly naïve or absolutely negligent.”

Raith: “We look at it as a societal issue,” he said. “It’s not just us. It’s every sport, it’s other facets of life. We’re doing everything we can to help educate, to help proactively ensure that our small membership in the big world is aware of things they should be looking out for and bad people and things to do right and things to keep everybody safe because it is a topic now that is on everybody’s mind and we accept that. You can never do enough. But we’re trying to do everything we can. For me, the No. 1 thing is that you support survivors and you believe in survivors.”

I genuinely believe that this attitude is some combination of naivety and stupidity as opposed to malice, but it's still not a good look at all. And just because it's a societal problem too, doesn't mean that the skating environment doesn't amplify aspects of it.
 

overedge

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Raith says USFS is active in eradicating abuse, and then when he's pressed on what's actually been done, all he can come up with is that they talked to a lot of people and they're "working" on things. He's full of sh*t and this is an embarrassingly bad look for USFS.
 

Vagabond

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What I find so disheartening about Brennan's article is that less than a year ago, U.S. Figure Skating had a different view:

“If you want to change the culture of this sport, people have to come forward. All covered individuals (USFS member coaches, staff, board members and officials, among others) have an obligation under the Code to report, and the Center does enforce that obligation. As we’ve seen with gymnastics, it takes brave people speaking up and enough of them to get a culture shift.”

What happened in the interim, other than that people did come forward?
 

maatTheViking

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I think this article opens great

Last March, the U.S. Center for SafeSport delivered a chilling assessment of sexual abuse in the sport of figure skating, saying it discovered “a culture in figure skating that allowed grooming and abuse to go unchecked for too long.”

Despite a series of high-profile allegations of sexual abuse in the intervening months, U.S. Figure Skating executive director David Raith told USA TODAY Sports Thursday afternoon, “We don’t agree with their statement.”

This is so damning.

One thing is to simply make a PR statement saying there is no general culture of abuse, and so forth - but like this he is saying that he does not value SafeSport. Regardless of what else USFSA says about SafeSport, here he basically renders them irrelevant. If they do not take SafeSport investigations to heart, what is the point?

It is very disappointing, as many people point out in the article. There is no desire to take actions, only to be reactionary.

:(
 

MacMadame

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I genuinely believe that this attitude is some combination of naivety and stupidity as opposed to malice, but it's still not a good look at all. And just because it's a societal problem too, doesn't mean that the skating environment doesn't amplify aspects of it.
Eating disorders are a societal issue too. But they are still way more prevalent in certain environments (such as figure skating) than in the general society.
 

PRlady

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A sociologist would look at the structures of figure skating, especially the power relationships and hierarchies, and point out why this particular sport is even more susceptible to abuse than sports in general. For one thing, the focus on performance, appearance and theatricality brings in an element you don't find in basketball or soccer. For another, the autonomous nature of coaching, independent for the most part of supervision, allows all sorts of things to take place. And for a third, and most important here, the organization that does have supervisory and official capacity has a long history of wanting to make the uncomfortable go away -- that's the case with every organization but some have pragmatic leaders who know you have to fix rather than bury the problem, and that PR absent action is worse than no PR at all.
 

bethy135

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The one and only good thing I have to say is that I'm happy that 3 other notable athletes other than Ashley Wagner (Adam Rippon, Tai Babilonia, and Bill Fauver) went on record and called out Raith and USFS.

Great point.

It's ironic that in his statement "We don't agree . . . " Raith demonstrates just the kind of leadership and mentality that allows the dark corners and power imbalances to fester.
 

Artistic Skaters

Drawing Figures
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Before we ran screaming from the sport.
Hysteria doesn't help. There are good alternate coaching choices besides predatory and negligent coaches. It's not as simple as just a problem with the leadership. Many parents have also helped exacerbate the problem over the years and as a group will have to face up to it and take responsibility to help implement processes that protect young skaters.

The majority of skaters have good experiences and skaters who love skating want to continue to skate. There are a lot of people who have been speaking up about the abuses for a long time and will continue to do so.
 

overedge

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Hysteria doesn't help. There are good alternate coaching choices besides predatory and negligent coaches.

Not everywhere, especially in regions with a few small clubs.


It's not as simple as just a problem with the leadership. Many parents have also helped exacerbate the problem over the years and as a group will have to face up to it and take responsibility to help implement processes that protect young skaters.

The majority of skaters have good experiences and skaters who love skating want to continue to skate. There are a lot of people who have been speaking up about the abuses for a long time and will continue to do so.

I can't disagree, but speaking up doesn't seem to change things if the leadership thinks they're already doing enough.
 

Artistic Skaters

Drawing Figures
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It is starting to take a turn if you review what was happening 20-30 years ago vs. the present. Certainly not quickly enough or at the level of response needed after the gymnastics scandal. There need to be more changes in attitude at the frontlines, but if people who are willing to speak up and be objective and critical all run "screaming from the sport" it won't continue to improve.

I'm thankful for the skaters like Ashley who have clearly dug their heels in on this issue, because she will convince others to become more involved. She has Adam on board and talking about it.
 

supergirl573

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USFS is literally repeating the same PR mistakes as US Gymnastics. Why are they prizing "good PR" over their athletes? Why are they publicly disagreeing with those that have/have had "boots on the ground"?
The real answer? People only care about sexual abuse if it costs very little personally to care. That's why victims are always told to shut up and organizations protect perpetrators over abusers.
 

overedge

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A sociologist would look at the structures of figure skating, especially the power relationships and hierarchies, and point out why this particular sport is even more susceptible to abuse than sports in general. For one thing, the focus on performance, appearance and theatricality brings in an element you don't find in basketball or soccer. For another, the autonomous nature of coaching, independent for the most part of supervision, allows all sorts of things to take place. And for a third, and most important here, the organization that does have supervisory and official capacity has a long history of wanting to make the uncomfortable go away -- that's the case with every organization but some have pragmatic leaders who know you have to fix rather than bury the problem, and that PR absent action is worse than no PR at all.

Plus the politicking, which undercuts a lot of what the formal policies and procedures are trying to accomplish.
 

UGG

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Interesting though that as soon as Ashley decided to share her story of sexual misconduct, pretty much everyone shut up about what a great guy Coughlin was, and the KS hats were no where to be found. No mention of him at nationals, no more talk of the jealous rival who wanted to be a commentator, no more talk of the Romeo and Juliet relationship etc...
 

nimi

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Somewhat related article (blocked in EU)
"With the national championships back in Greensboro for the third time in 10 years, officials with U.S. Figure Skating’s own SafeSport program said the sport has taken some steps to fix old problems."

Policy of "two deep leadership" and education sessions about grooming are held as examples.

ETA: Ashley tweeted this in response to somebody who wrote that USFS has no idea what is going on at rinks: "I work with people at USFS who do go into rinks. We talk to kids, we’re working on educating and changing the culture, it’s great stuff! There is just such a disconnect between what we do and people higher up "
 
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aliceanne

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USFSA has a culture of exclusion. That is why it has never had a strong recreational program or figure skating has never become a mainstream sport. The people at the top enjoy being a member of an exclusive club and will do anything to keep it that way. As far as they are concerned it is all about elite skaters, and elite skaters are not victims.
 

BittyBug

The missing ingredient
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I don't think skating has a culture of exclusion but rather that the sport itself is exclusionary because of the significant costs associated with skating.

What skating does very much have is a culture of not rocking the boat. Because it's a judged sport, participants (skaters, parents, coaches) are reluctant to do anything that might result in negative repercussions, and that includes speaking out. Everyone wants to go along to get along.

As far as David Raith is concerned, I have been entirely unimpressed by his "leadership," and I am not at all surprised by his comments. Of course, if he were to admit there is a problem he'd actually have to try to do something to address it, and that would require effort. Shame on the Board and whoever else endorsed his statement.
 

bethy135

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USFSA has a culture of exclusion. That is why it has never had a strong recreational program or figure skating has never become a mainstream sport. The people at the top enjoy being a member of an exclusive club and will do anything to keep it that way. As far as they are concerned it is all about elite skaters, and elite skaters are not victims.
Thank you! I have been struggling to articulate what I believe is one of the root issues for awhile now. Your comment about elite skaters not being victims gives me chills.
 

bethy135

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I don't think skating has a culture of exclusion but rather that the sport itself is exclusionary because of the significant costs associated with skating.

See, that's a vicious cycle. Part of the reason it's so expensive is because there is no real support or excitement for recreational skating by the people in the sport who 'matter". Therefore there is then no critical mass of people and families who just love to skate in general. So therefore less demand for coaches and ice rinks and gear, etc.

Because lower level, less talented, less monied skaters are not genuinely cherished by coaches and USFS there are fewer families who are into the sport. Who take their kids to the rink, watch big competitions on NBC network tv and become fans of the big skaters. Which then makes the sport more expensive for everyone. Which THEN results in limited resources and limited income sources which THEN incentivizes coaches to resource guard and fight for students, ice time and power. And to look the other way on lots of issues.
 

MacMadame

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See, that's a vicious cycle. Part of the reason it's so expensive is because there is no real support or excitement for recreational skating by the people in the sport who 'matter". Therefore there is then no critical mass of people and families who just love to skate in general. So therefore less demand for coaches and ice rinks and gear, etc.
That is very, very small part of why it's so expensive. The main reason is that it requires lots and lots of ice time to be good and that skaters in the US are taught primarily in private lessons. In other sports where you compete as individuals, group coaching is an option. But in the US it's not common at all.

Just changing the culture so that more training is done in groups would reduce the costs significantly.
 

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