Olympic governing body 'knows the truth' behind late figure skater's alleged sexual abuse

skatfan

a Rhythm Dance to Springtime with Hitler please?
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I liked all your points, except these two. This is so subjective, in terms of one's temperament, personality, culture, upbringing, sense of personal space/privacy... There are coaches who are naturally give you hugs, friendly, helpful, offer rides home, buy you snacks, fuss over you, try to fix your hair, socialize with your parents outside of the rink... I can easily see someone "with different mentality" thinking its "grooming".... And the 2nd one in general promotes "snitching"..
Nope, I know you think this type behavior can continue, but the risks are way too high. I know you'll give the few cases where everything was fine, but it can't continue. It prevents sexual abuse, we need to do it.

The second one is not snitching, as you say, it's called creating a safe culture for all.
 

Tinami Amori

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Nope, I know you think this type behavior can continue, but the risks are way too high. I know you'll give the few cases where everything was fine, but it can't continue. It prevents sexual abuse, we need to do it.

The second one is not snitching, as you say, it's called creating a safe culture for all.
I think the programme to prevent abuse must start with educating children/young people, what are the key points of "grooming", give examples, and make them alert that such things happen, to ask them what makes them feel uncomfortable, and advise to watch out for what makes them uncomfortable in adults' behavior. and go from there.....
 

Vagabond

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And meanwhile, there may be more reports of past offenses that people are only now feeling empowered to speak up about.
Also, in some cases, people may only now fully appreciate that the wrongfulness of the behavior and/or that anyone will actually care if they do speak up. (I speak from personal experience outside the world of skating.)
 

BittyBug

And the band played on
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I liked all your points, except these two. This is so subjective, in terms of one's temperament, personality, culture, upbringing, sense of personal space/privacy... There are coaches who are naturally give you hugs, friendly, helpful, offer rides home, buy you snacks, fuss over you, try to fix your hair, socialize with your parents outside of the rink... I can easily see someone "with different mentality" thinking its "grooming".... And the 2nd one in general promotes "snitching"..
Part of the SafeSport education process is helping people understand that perfectly innocent behavior may not be appropriate and that adults need to operate within certain guidelines.

As for "snitching," I'd rather have over reporting than under reporting. A report merely triggers surveilance or an investigation, and there are consequences for false reporting so there are ways to manage malicious activity.
 

Meoima

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To be honest, the whole skating culture needs a change, I have met skaters telling me: “Coach’s words are the absolute and I listen to my coaches every time because when I did not my results got worse.”
If their coaches are nice people, that would be lucky but we never know. Some people are scared of their coaches and dare not go against. It’s quite... troublesome in some cases.
 

Tinami Amori

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To be honest, the whole skating culture needs a change, I have met skaters telling me: “Coach’s words are the absolute and I listen to my coaches every time because when I did not my results got worse.”
If their coaches are nice people, that would be lucky but we never know. Some people are scared of their coaches and dare not go against. It’s quite... troublesome in some cases.
There is a difference between "instructions relevant to skating" and those that have nothing to do with that.
 

mag

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I think the programme to prevent abuse must start with educating children/young people, what are the key points of "grooming", give examples, and make them alert that such things happen, to ask them what makes them feel uncomfortable, and advise to watch out for what makes them uncomfortable in adults' behavior. and go from there.....
The problem with this, is by definition, grooming behaviour is done in such a way that it doesn’t necessarily make the person uncomfortable, at least at first. The “grooming” part is designed to break down the child’s natural defenses or defenses she or he may have been taught. That is why it is so important to kids to know what grooming behaviour looks like. Kids do need to be in tune with situations and behaviour that make them uncomfortable and they need to be empowered to act on those feeling (for example not insisting that kids hug people as in “give uncle bob a hug goodbye.”) But they also need to be able to spot behaviour that could be grooming and know that they can respectfully request the behaviour to stop and talk to another adult about it.

The thing with this sort of training is both kids and adults need to get it so that adults also know the kinds of behaviour they should avoid.
 

Meoima

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There is a difference between "instructions relevant to skating" and those that have nothing to do with that.
I agree to that but just saying many people are like really afraid of their coaches. If they do not speak up, they are scared. This feeling has ingrained in many young athletes.
 

PDilemma

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I agree to that but just saying many people are like really afraid of their coaches. If they do not speak up, they are scared. This feeling has ingrained in many young athletes.
That's certainly not isolated to skating or elite sports. I can tell you a lot of bad stories from years of working in high schools.

I was interested in the point made in one article about Blumenthal's comments that referenced relationships between older and younger skaters as problematic. John Coughlin was 8 years older than his last partner, Caydee Denney. IIRC, at one point, they were rumored to be romantically involved. They paired up at ages 17 and 25. Her previous partner was a year older than Coughlin. Rockne Brubaker skated for a season with a partner 11 years younger than him (granted they were NEVER romantically linked and neither were Denney and Barrett). There are many other examples of large age differences between pairs.

Unless they are siblings, perhaps this is an area that the ISU needs to look at. Would it be better to have some rules for age differences between pairs, particularly if one is a minor? The age parameters for juniors allows for pretty large age differences--13 being minimum for all and 21 being max for male pair skaters. Changing that parameter might discourage these pairings when skaters are young? I didn't look at dance age differences, simply because I can't immediately recall such large age differences between a couple there. Does anyone know of any?

As for other skaters, I don't know how USFSA or the ISU can control relationships forming. That's on parents and coaches. I recall that Gracie and Max were briefly an item when she was under 18 and he was not. There was no indication that anything was amiss between them. But such relationships with young adult males and minor females should perhaps be highly discouraged in training situations. And relationships between much older male pair skaters and their minor female partners (or partners of majority age who are significantly younger) should perhaps be banned entirely as a power differential certainly could exist. Girls may feel coerced simply due to the scarcity of strong male pair skaters to choose from.
 

overedge

Mayor of Carrot City
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And relationships between much older male pair skaters and their minor female partners (or partners of majority age who are significantly younger) should perhaps be banned entirely as a power differential certainly could exist. Girls may feel coerced simply due to the scarcity of strong male pair skaters to choose from.
I agree with most of what you're saying, but there's no way to ban relationships between skating partners, outside the boundaries of what the law says about legal relationships with younger people. I agree that the power differential exists, but OTOH most of the male skaters in the type of partnerships you're describing are probably going to want to spend their free time with people their own age, not with a girl in her early teens or younger.

IMO education about the signs of grooming or abuse, plus coaches and parents being vigilant, plus access to a reporting system where reporting is going to result in protection and/or complaint resolution, would work better.
 

gkelly

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Here is the USFS SafeSport Handbook, published not quite 6 months ago: https://www.usfigureskating.org/content/safesport handbook.pdf

All the "covered individuals" named here were required to take SafeSport training during the summer and submit to background checks. For several years before that, coaches had been subject to "greenlighting" but the requirements for officials and club leaders are new.

Among the examples of Sexual misconduct, note
"Sexual relations or intimacies between Covered Individuals and an Athlete or Non-athlete Participant except in the event of a pre-existing relationship between spouses or life partners."

Also"Minors cannot consent to sexual activity with an adult. All sexual interaction between an adult and a minor is strictly prohibited."

There are also descriptions of grooming behavior and guidelines on where to report concerns.

(As have been quoted in earlier threads on this topic.)
 

PDilemma

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I agree with most of what you're saying, but there's no way to ban relationships between skating partners, outside the boundaries of what the law says about legal relationships with younger people. I agree that the power differential exists, but OTOH most of the male skaters in the type of partnerships you're describing are probably going to want to spend their free time with people their own age, not with a girl in her early teens or younger.

IMO education about the signs of grooming or abuse, plus coaches and parents being vigilant, plus access to a reporting system where reporting is going to result in protection and/or complaint resolution, would work better.
Three times in the 16 years I taught high school, we had men over 30 at prom with their 18 year old girlfriends.* It is not a given that a 25-30 year old man is not going to pursue a social relationship with a 17 or 18 year old partner. It might be easier to not allow those partnerships in the first place.

*This was gross and appalling and many of us on the staff at the school where it happened tried to get the admins to have a policy in place to prevent it, but they refused, so there it was. Grown ass men at prom because they liked to date teenage girls and no one --parents or school--stopped them from going to prom. Also, as we stood around chaperoning, we made fun of these loser guys, imagining what it was like for them at work on Monday. "What'd you do this weekend, Jason?". "I went to prom with my girlfriend". At which point, we assumed and hoped his co-workers said "wow, you're a perv and a loser!".
 

mollymgr

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Quote from the story linked by @clairecloutier:
The reference to "elite" sports is very troubling. Abuse can take place at *any* level of sport. The USOC should be concerned with what happens at any level of any of the Olympic sports, not just at the elite level.
I wonder if he meant "elite" as in competitive Olympic sports as opposed to recreational sports/leagues. SafeSport only has control over competitive Olympic sports.
 

overedge

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Three times in the 16 years I taught high school, we had men over 30 at prom with their 18 year old girlfriends.* It is not a given that a 25-30 year old man is not going to pursue a social relationship with a 17 or 18 year old partner. It might be easier to not allow those partnerships in the first place.

*This was gross and appalling and many of us on the staff at the school where it happened tried to get the admins to have a policy in place to prevent it, but they refused, so there it was. Grown ass men at prom because they liked to date teenage girls and no one --parents or school--stopped them from going to prom. Also, as we stood around chaperoning, we made fun of these loser guys, imagining what it was like for them at work on Monday. "What'd you do this weekend, Jason?". "I went to prom with my girlfriend". At which point, we assumed and hoped his co-workers said "wow, you're a perv and a loser!".
But how do you "not allow" these relationships? At a school, you can tell someone not to come to prom with an underage date - that doesn't mean that they aren't doing things elsewhere, but you have some control over where they can be together. It's not the same in skating. SafeSport's rules that @gkelly listed make it pretty clear that any relationship has to be consensual, which puts the onus on one or both of the participants to be clear about the other's intention and understanding. But beyond that, I don't think anyone wants to go down the road of controlling skaters' personal lives like Richard Callaghan (allegedly) knocking on the doors of skaters' houses at night to see if they're home, or (allegedly) following them around on dates.
 
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PRlady

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Japanfan

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I was interested in the point made in one article about Blumenthal's comments that referenced relationships between older and younger skaters as problematic. John Coughlin was 8 years older than his last partner, Caydee Denney. IIRC, at one point, they were rumored to be romantically involved. They paired up at ages 17 and 25. Her previous partner was a year older than Coughlin. Rockne Brubaker skated for a season with a partner 11 years younger than him (granted they were NEVER romantically linked and neither were Denney and Barrett). There are many other examples of large age differences between pairs.

Unless they are siblings, perhaps this is an area that the ISU needs to look at. Would it be better to have some rules for age differences between pairs, particularly if one is a minor? The age parameters for juniors allows for pretty large age differences--13 being minimum for all and 21 being max for male pair skaters. Changing that parameter might discourage these pairings when skaters are young?
Not a bad idea in theory. But the problem is that skaters want to succeed, and their parents and coaches want them to succeed. For a pair skater that means finding a suitable partner, and male partners are in short supply.

However, older boys/men, younger girls/women seems to be the trend.

Are there any examples of girls/women skating with male/boy partners quite a few younger than them?

And relationships between much older male pair skaters and their minor female partners (or partners of majority age who are significantly younger) should perhaps be banned entirely as a power differential certainly could exist. Girls may feel coerced simply due to the scarcity of strong male pair skaters to choose from.
I agree that girls may feel coerced.

How exactly would you go about banning relationships between older pair skaters and minor female partners? I'm not sure it is even possible.
 

PRlady

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As I commented upthread, pairs skating is tailor-made for abuse - the more size differential, the easier the tricks, which isn’t true in dance where matching lines are more important. The physical positives of having a much younger girl partner pay off in the scores. That’s a hard nut to crack in terms of preventing power imbalances.
 

Artistic Skaters

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I remember that Vincent was arrested when the victimized boy finally contacted the authorities after he came back from a retreat with his church (he told his church friends what had been going on, and they helped him contact the authorities)...not a skating camp. I don't remember that USFSA played a role in Vincent's arrest, correct me if I'm wrong.
I went back and checked my information and you are right it was not skating camp. It only said camp, and evidently I presumed skating camp. It's an IIRC gaffe on my part, so I apologize - I need to go back and review the details before I type when it's been over five years.
 

Orm Irian

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Are there any examples of girls/women skating with male/boy partners quite a few younger than them?
Savchenko/Massot with their five-year age gap do rather spring to mind. And Vanessa James is four years older than Morgan Cipres. It seems more likely to be senior teams, and older senior teams, that will include a woman who's older than the man, though. I think this is partly because girl younger/boy older is just the accepted norm, partly because of the trend for girls to reach their full height a bit earlier than boys (which means they risk outgrowing their same-age male skating partners, especially a problem in pairs because a bit of a height differential can help some pairs with lifts and throws), and partly because the boys need to have a certain amount of upper body strength for those lifts and throws and that's more likely to develop with age and puberty. Once both sexes are done growing, age isn't a relevant factor any more and senior skaters can just choose to work with whoever best suits them in terms of temperament and physique.

How exactly would you go about banning relationships between older pair skaters and minor female partners? I'm not sure it is even possible.
The same way that universities go about banning relationships between lecturers and students: by stating that such relationships are forbidden between members of ISA or FFSG or USFSA or whatever any given country's Federation is called when one party in a pair is a minor (potentially with an exception in the case where the relationship began when both parties were minors) and then backing it up with sanctions (loss of competition assignments, access to resources, membership etc).
 

Frau Muller

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This is becoming huge news now, after a prominent US Senator’s call for USFS to stop the culture of abuse. This is being picked up by major media services.
 

overedge

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The same way that universities go about banning relationships between lecturers and students: by stating that such relationships are forbidden between members of ISA or FFSG or USFSA or whatever any given country's Federation is called when one party in a pair is a minor (potentially with an exception in the case where the relationship began when both parties were minors) and then backing it up with sanctions (loss of competition assignments, access to resources, membership etc).
A lecturer and a student have a different relationship than pairs partners. Lecturers and students aren't usually working together for several hours a day most days of the week. And there are professional norms for lecturers - not usually written down, but generally understood - about treating all students equitably and professionally.

Also, lecturers are employees of their university or college. In an employer-employee relationship it is a lot easier to enforce desired behaviour. Skaters might be getting funding from their federation, but they are not employees of the federation.
 
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Vagabond

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A lecturer and a student have a different relationship than pairs partners. Lecturers and students aren't usually working together for several hours a day most days of the week. And there are professional norms for lecturers - not usually written down, but generally understood - about treating all students equitably and professionally.
Faculty doing laboratory or field research often are working with students together several for several hours a day most days a week. There often are written rules governing how these relationships are supposed to work, but I can see how they could easily be transgressed, especially when the research is happening far from campus, even in the wilderness in a foreign country. And, usually, these students are over the age of eighteen and better able to handle things than, say, a fifteen-year-old girl Pairs skater.
 

overedge

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Faculty doing laboratory or field research often are working with students together several for several hours a day most days a week. There often are written rules governing how these relationships are supposed to work, but I can see how they could easily be transgressed, especially when the research is happening far from campus, even in the wilderness in a foreign country. And, usually, these students are over the age of eighteen and better able to handle things than, say, a fifteen-year-old girl Pairs skater.
There are lots of faculty members who don't do lab-based or field-trip-based research. The majority of students only see their instructor for a couple of hours a week in a classroom.
 
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Prancer

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And, usually, these students are over the age of eighteen and better able to handle things than, say, a fifteen-year-old girl Pairs skater.
Maybe (a big maybe), but faculty are still in positions of power over those students, which does change the dynamic there.

There are lots of faculty members who don't do lab-based or field-trip-based research. The majority of students only see their instructor for a couple of hours a week in a classroom.
Well, now, that's true, but it's also true that faculty get into sexual relationships with students, so some of them are clearly offering special office hours to special students, and there are rules against this at most institutions because of the power differential, among other things.

That wasn't always the case, though, and even when the rules were in place, they were often ignored (and still are) because so many people don't think it's a big deal when someone crosses those lines. I will say that I do think there is a lot less tolerance of such relationships than there used to be, which I attribute to cultural changes in academia.

I can see all kinds of problems with enforcing rules in skating, but it seems to me that that's where culture is a factor. Education is important, but I think far too many people think that if people are told something, they know it and that's that. I suspect that most of us have taken training that has been tolerated and then forgotten; that's how a lot of education works. If you want something to stick with people, you have to give them reason to remember it and apply it.

Unfortunately, the only way I see this happening is for the USFS to adopt a "winning isn't everything" attitude and push it hard down the ranks. That's a tough sell in elite sports.
 

overedge

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Unfortunately, the only way I see this happening is for the USFS to adopt a "winning isn't everything" attitude and push it hard down the ranks. That's a tough sell in elite sports.
Agreed. I think USFS is trying to make at least one move in this direction with the new national competition structure, i.e. no more nationals for novice levels and lower. IIRC part of the reason that was presented to Governing Council for this change was parents focusing too much on their kids winning medals and not enough on developing long-term competitive potential. But USFS' own communications still focus primarily on who won what, which kind of undercuts that direction.
 

mag

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Agreed. I think USFS is trying to make at least one move in this direction with the new national competition structure, i.e. no more nationals for novice levels and lower. IIRC part of the reason that was presented to Governing Council for this change was parents focusing too much on their kids winning medals and not enough on developing long-term competitive potential. But USFS' own communications still focus primarily on who won what, which kind of undercuts that direction.
And the new structure has been put in place so the US athletes will eventually win more, not fewer, medals. They are just looking for senior international ones rather than Juv national ones. The win at almost all costs attitude is still alive and well.
 

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