SafeSport alleges "culture of grooming and abuse" in U.S. figure skating

attyfan

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IMO, there are two issues ... (a) what sort of internal procedures should be established to deal with complaints and (b) what sort of information should be released, and how. For example, the internal procedures might be fine, but it may be better to release some specifics explaining the action (i.e., how long ago the act occurred, whether it was partners; coach/student; etc, significant age difference; etc.)
 

rfisher

Let the skating begin
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As to making public information about a SafeSport investigation, the accused could speak out as long as they didn't name their accuser which would be confidential information, but I cannot imagine the accused would not retain an attorney who would indeed advise them to say nothing to the press. Because if they did, it could really come back and bite them in the butt. I felt sure Coughlin was referring to being under advice of counsel. If he wasn't, that was a major mistake on his part.
 

attyfan

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As to making public information about a SafeSport investigation, the accused could speak out as long as they didn't name their accuser which would be confidential information, but I cannot imagine the accused would not retain an attorney who would indeed advise them to say nothing to the press. Because if they did, it could really come back and bite them in the butt. I felt sure Coughlin was referring to being under advice of counsel. If he wasn't, that was a major mistake on his part.

The credibility of anything the accused might say is often doubted, which is why changes to SafeSport's publicity practices should be considered -- and, if warranted, adopted.
 

overedge

Mayor of Carrot City
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If that's what they're trying to imply, why don't they just state that? I always hear the presumption of innocence in a court of law stated as "a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty" (at whatever standard, e.g., beyond a reasonable doubt, or preponderance of the evidence which is used in SafeSport cases). It's not hard to make that sort of brief clarification.

The context that SafeSport is regulating is a context in which there could be extreme imbalances of power between the harasser and the harassed, and also a context in which there is a vulnerable population (children). The language is very clear because of that. If you want to get hung up on the distinction between "presumed" and "is", then go ahead, I'm not going to explain it any more.
 

Willin

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As to making public information about a SafeSport investigation, the accused could speak out as long as they didn't name their accuser which would be confidential information, but I cannot imagine the accused would not retain an attorney who would indeed advise them to say nothing to the press. Because if they did, it could really come back and bite them in the butt. I felt sure Coughlin was referring to being under advice of counsel. If he wasn't, that was a major mistake on his part.
I would imagine too with how small the skating community is, it would be pretty easy to figure out who the accuser was if Coughlin said pretty much anything about the situation. Heck, just the things his family said make it easier to figure out who it was.

IMO, there are two issues ... (a) what sort of internal procedures should be established to deal with complaints and (b) what sort of information should be released, and how. For example, the internal procedures might be fine, but it may be better to release some specifics explaining the action (i.e., how long ago the act occurred, whether it was partners; coach/student; etc, significant age difference; etc.)
I think this is where I think SafeSport could've handled things better. As I said in this post, it might accidentally identify the accuser, so it's walking a fine line. But I don't think it would be appropriate to place him on an interim suspension as a "possible threat to skaters" if the case in question was 15 years ago and a power differential relationship gone wrong. Then there were apparently two more accusations we don't much about. It would have been helpful to know what general category all accusations fell into. Right now SafeSport uses the nebulous category of "sexual misconduct." As we saw in the original thread that led to a lot of confusion and speculation. Maybe it would be more appropriate for them to separate "sexual misconduct" out a bit more so it's less nebulous and open to speculation.
But either way, I think SafeSport should be a bit better at finding ways to report the details or otherwise act according to the case so that there's less speculation and confusion from the fans, parents, and athletes in a sport.
 

wickedwitch

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I don't think they have any obligation whatsoever to fans or for that matter family members of the accused. The only obligation is to protect potential victims which would be current skaters.
Even if there's no obligation to the accused, someone ending up dead, whether innocent or guilty, is problematic. If something can be done to prevent this from happening in the future without sacrificing protection of potential victims, then something should be done. Maybe they could aid the accused with finding psychiatric resources.
 

Willin

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@rfisher What I was trying to say is this: I would in no way be comfortable having anyone interact with someone accused of being a predator whether it be someone like Nassar, a coach that repeatedly dates his students, someone known to make creepy comments, someone said to peep on lockerrooms, etc. I would have fewer reservations about having students interact with someone like Alex Naddour, who was apparently reported to SafeSport for a single "he said, she said" incident with someone of legal age that occurred 5+ years prior and who was ultimately cleared. And yet all are lumped into one suspension category.

In the future when I'm a parent I'd like not to be kept in the dark if a coach of my child did something wrong. I don't need to know the details, but I'd like to know if my child or other students were at risk or possible victims. I mean, I'd totally judge someone that was irresponsible or uninformed and made a poor choice one time (having a drunk encounter with a peer), but it's not on the same threat level as a predator that targets kids as far as me being scared that my child would be a victim. Lumping a case like Naddour's into a category with cases like Nassar's does a disservice both to the accused and to those that might worry about the safety of their child or students.
 

rfisher

Let the skating begin
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Even if there's no obligation to the accused, someone ending up dead, whether innocent or guilty, is problematic. If something can be done to prevent this from happening in the future without sacrificing protection of potential victims, then something should be done. Maybe they could aid the accused with finding psychiatric resources.
They who? As @Prancer pointed out, who would do so and who would fund it? SafeSport is underfunded already.
 

overedge

Mayor of Carrot City
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Even if there's no obligation to the accused, someone ending up dead, whether innocent or guilty, is problematic. If something can be done to prevent this from happening in the future without sacrificing protection of potential victims, then something should be done. Maybe they could aid the accused with finding psychiatric resources.

I hear what you're saying, but SafeSport isn't completely responsible for how people choose to react to its decisions. SafeSport does say that respondents to complaints filed with SafeSport (i.e. the accused) can contact the SafeSport investigator at any time, and presumably if someone felt they needed access to additional resources, the investigator could provide some suggestions for that.
 

Vagabond

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Why couldn't there have been an opportunity for the initial accused and the accuser to possibly meet with each other and an arbitrator to gain understanding and reconciliation?
Let's leave aside the Coughlin case for the moment.

Suppose that the accusation is not of some sort of consensual relationship but outright rape and that the accuser was twelve and the accused was forty at the time of the incident. Suppose further that the accusation is true.

Do you really suppose that understanding and reconciliation is possible or even desirable?

When I was a boy, I was abused by my much older brothers. I went to family therapy with one of them, and when I brought up the subject of some of the abuse, of which I had not spoken since it happened, my brother's response was to leave a message on the therapist's voicemail saying that I had no right to bring it up. He still hasn't retracted that statement. I have gained quite a bit of understanding from those therapy sessions but no reconciliation with either of my brothers.
 
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MacMadame

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In the future when I'm a parent I'd like not to be kept in the dark if a coach of my child did something wrong. I don't need to know the details, but I'd like to know if my child or other students were at risk or possible victims. I mean, I'd totally judge someone that was irresponsible or uninformed and made a poor choice one time (having a drunk encounter with a peer), but it's not on the same threat level as a predator that targets kids as far as me being scared that my child would be a victim. Lumping a case like Naddour's into a category with cases like Nassar's does a disservice both to the accused and to those that might worry about the safety of their child or students.
I don't see how that is at all practical. What bothers you and you see as a threat might not be my judgement. Plus, until the accusations are investigated, it may not be clear how serious the acts were or were not. That is why we have investigations.

It's not like SafeSport only have one category or one response either. Not all investigations result in the accused being put on interim suspension, for example.

SafeSport thought the situation with Coughlin was serious enough to put in him on interim suspension. As a parent, that is enough for me. I don't need to know the nitty gritty details. I'm certainly not looking for an excuse to discount them as so many on FSU are. I'm interested in protecting my kids. That means keeping them out of the reach of people accused of behaving inappropriately.
 

Tinami Amori

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Even if there's no obligation to the accused, someone ending up dead, whether innocent or guilty, is problematic. If something can be done to prevent this from happening in the future without sacrificing protection of potential victims, then something should be done. Maybe they could aid the accused with finding psychiatric resources.
SafeSport's work/investigation affects one's career (negatively, yes). Negative affect on one's career does not = suicide.
All they can be "accused of" is affecting one's career/income.

Some people chose suicide for different reasons (divorce, loss of a lover, being fired from a job, loss of business, financial troubles, legal troubles, failed exam, lack of friends, lack of a mate, death of the near one, a pet, etc..). But most people don't, and some how handle it.

And few others may not chose suicide, but something even more drastic, like harming others.. Would we accuse SafeSport of "mass killing" if someone under investigation chose to run over a group pedestrians with a truck?

Just because some chose "a drastic solution", it does not mean that divorces, separations, job firings, debt collections, law suites, etc, should be scrutinized or adjusted for those few who chose extreme measures.
 

UGG

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How do people know that these accusations are from 15 years ago? Was this ever confirmed?
 

Prancer

Aun Aprendo
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I think this is where I think SafeSport could've handled things better. As I said in this post, it might accidentally identify the accuser, so it's walking a fine line. But I don't think it would be appropriate to place him on an interim suspension as a "possible threat to skaters" if the case in question was 15 years ago and a power differential relationship gone wrong. Then there were apparently two more accusations we don't much about. It would have been helpful to know what general category all accusations fell into.

Correct me if I am wrong, but Coughlin was not suspended for one accusation, whatever it might have been, but was suspended after the other two accusations were made.

The first report, which did not come from a minor, led to SafeSport’s decision on Dec. 17 to restrict Coughlin’s eligibility to participate in his sport pending final resolution of the matter. News of that disciplinary action was reported by USA TODAY on Jan. 7.

The other two reports, both of which involved minors at the time of the alleged sexual misconduct, came to SafeSport within the past few weeks and resulted in its decision to elevate Coughlin’s disciplinary record to an interim suspension Thursday night.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/spor...-coughlin-death-sexual-misconduct/2632092002/

So here we have someone who has not one, but three accusations against him, two involving minors. At what point do you think a suspension would be called for?

Stop thinking of this as "John Coughlin" and think of it in terms of policy. What should SafeSport's policy be in cases in which someone has a number of accusations against him (or her)? Should there be a cutoff--say, you have to five accusations against you before a suspension? Should you only be suspended if an accusation involves a current situation? If there were or are minors involved?

Lumping a case like Naddour's into a category with cases like Nassar's does a disservice both to the accused and to those that might worry about the safety of their child or students.

Until an investigation is complete, how would SafeSport know what category an accused falls into?

Again, stop thinking of this as "the John Coughlin case," which seems to me to be really unproductive given how little is actually known about the facts, and think of this in terms of actual policy. How should SafeSport proceed?
 

overedge

Mayor of Carrot City
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Here is what his family and friends alleged in this article that was discussed in this thread. Obviously, they have reason to want to portray him in the most positive light and it hasn't been "confirmed" by any other source as far as I know, but it's not pure speculation either:

If it hasn't been confirmed by other, more neutral sources, then we have no way of knowing "it's not pure speculation" or if the facts were actually conveyed or understood correctly.
 

overedge

Mayor of Carrot City
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That article does mention the three accusations from the anonymous source that had been previously widely reported in the media and essentially acknowledges them though.

Repeating them doesn't make them any more or less true.

John had apparently told his friend that they the cases involving minors happened a long time ago. I doubt his friend would lie about what John had told him, so it's a matter of whether John was completely truthful to his friend.

Or it's a matter of whether his friend correctly understood what he had been told. We don't know either way.
 

UGG

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So all that is confirmed is that 3 people complained and two of them were minors at the time of the incident. It has not been confirmed how long ago and how old anybody was. Right?
 

Willin

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Correct me if I am wrong, but Coughlin was not suspended for one accusation, whatever it might have been, but was suspended after the other two accusations were made.

The first report, which did not come from a minor, led to SafeSport’s decision on Dec. 17 to restrict Coughlin’s eligibility to participate in his sport pending final resolution of the matter. News of that disciplinary action was reported by USA TODAY on Jan. 7.

The other two reports, both of which involved minors at the time of the alleged sexual misconduct, came to SafeSport within the past few weeks and resulted in its decision to elevate Coughlin’s disciplinary record to an interim suspension Thursday night.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/spor...-coughlin-death-sexual-misconduct/2632092002/

So here we have someone who has not one, but three accusations against him, two involving minors. At what point do you think a suspension would be called for?

Stop thinking of this as "John Coughlin" and think of it in terms of policy. What should SafeSport's policy be in cases in which someone has a number of accusations against him (or her)? Should there be a cutoff--say, you have to five accusations against you before a suspension? Should you only be suspended if an accusation involves a current situation? If there were or are minors involved?



Until an investigation is complete, how would SafeSport know what category an accused falls into?

Again, stop thinking of this as "the John Coughlin case," which seems to me to be really unproductive given how little is actually known about the facts, and think of this in terms of actual policy. How should SafeSport proceed?
I did mention there were two other accusations and that we didn't know the exact details in the first paragraph - which is why I didn't use his case but rather Naddour's case when discussing why I feel SafeSport needs to separate out their reporting. In Coughlin's case we'll probably never know the truth, and I do think the suspension was appropriate given that two of the people making accusations were minors at the time of the accusation.

In Naddour's case where the investigation is actually complete and was based around one accusation in particular it's a better example. I don't think there should be a cut off per se, but rather details on a case-by-case basis.
For instance, I think it was fine to put Coughlin on the list and not suspend him until details (two other accusations about minors) came forward. In the Naddour case I don't think it was appropriate to suspend him from the start of the investigation as the only information I've been able to find says there was only one accusation that occurred several years in the past and the person involved was of age, a peer, and someone he knew well.
It shouldn't be black and white when suspensions are concerned. They should be concerned about who's an immediate threat to athletes. But that's just my opinion.
 

Prancer

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I did mention there were two other accusations and that we didn't know the exact details in the first paragraph

Yes, I not only read but quoted your post, but what you said was "But I don't think it would be appropriate to place him on an interim suspension as a "possible threat to skaters" if the case in question was 15 years ago and a power differential relationship gone wrong. Then there were apparently two more accusations we don't much about."

And what I was responding to was the timeline on the suspension. He was not suspended over one complaint, whatever the details of that complaint.

In Naddour's case where the investigation is actually complete and was based around one accusation in particular it's a better example. I don't think there should be a cut off per se, but rather details on a case-by-case basis.

I've seen several people suggest this now and, frankly, it makes me want to scream. How do you see this as an effective solution?

Would these "case-by-case" decisions be made at each step of an investigation?

Who would get to make these "case-by-case" decisions?

How are people who have to work under these conditions supposed to know what to expect if cases are decided on a "case-by-case" basis? Let's use me as an example; if I am accused of sexual misconduct by a student, I know exactly what will happen to me because it's all laid out in writing--these are the steps that will be taken. If cases are to be decided on a "case-by-case" basis, I would have no idea what would happen and would have to wait and see.

My accuser would also have no idea what would happen, because there would be no policy in place and all decisions would have to be made depending on whatever. Would the accusation be revealed? Concealed? Investigated? Dismissed?

With policies in writing, everyone involved--without accusations ever having to come into it--has the opportunity to review or protest the policies. As faculty, I had to review and agree to accept the policies as part of my job requirements and was able to decide whether or not I was willing to live with those policies before accepting the job. Students also have the opportunity to review the policy and to decline to attend my college if they don't like them. If everything is decided on a "case-by-case" basis, those opportunities would not exist.

The person or persons who make the decisions would have tremendous power, as there would be no standards in place requiring that steps be taken (or not). It would all come down to their interpretations of the circumstances.

This is why policies exist. Sometimes they suck. But more often than not, they serve to create objective standards so that individual subjectivity is neutralized. For years, police officers ignored domestic violence and sexual assault claims because they had the power to make decisions on a "case-by-case" basis. Do you really think that was better? And of course it still happens because people ignore policy all the time. But in those cases, the victims (whether accuser or accused) have recourse because the policy is there.

Once an investigation is complete and all the circumstances are actually known, then maybe you can make a "case-by-case" decision. This happens in legal cases all the time; sentences are based on the circumstances. But AFTER the investigation is complete. Which is, as far as I can tell, what happens here, too.
 

Rock2

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I want to screen grab every reply here complaining about the agenda of Brennan or the politics of SafeSport or anyone else.

What has happened here is that SafeSport has thrown a public warning shot over the bow that there very well may be a problem in the sport. Any comment other than something along the lines of "I hope USFSA takes this seriously and conducts a thorough internal analysis to ensure the ongoing safety of its skaters" is to me irresponsible.

Because any abuse that happens in the sport from today forward lies on the shoulders of not only the USFSA but also on any members of the public who support any move to discredit, dismiss or otherwise sweep these statements under the rug.
 

her grace

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I find it interesting that the same organization that stated

"The only likely reason to keep the investigation open would be if there were any reports of “systemic issues,” Hill said. “If there were other parties that perhaps were involved or anything else that would be systemic in nature, that would be a reason to keep it open. In other cases, there have been people who assisted, knew of things, had an obligation to report and didn’t, that kind of thing.” Feb 12 USA Today article

also thinks that

“[There is] a culture in figure skating that allowed grooming and abuse to go unchecked for too long.
The issues in this sport are similar to those the Center has seen in many others and cut across a wide population,” March 4 USA Today article

So which is it Safesport, are there systemic issues or not?

Now that being said, I understand Safesport's rationale of limited resources that should be used on active cases where there are current safety issues.
 

mollymgr

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I find it interesting that the same organization that stated



also thinks that



So which is it Safesport, are there systemic issues or not?

Now that being said, I understand Safesport's rationale of limited resources that should be used on active cases where there are current safety issues.
I thought of that too. It does seem contradictory. I thought the investigation would have continued due to the fact that there are more problems they unearthed from their latest press release.
 

MacMadame

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I don't think of culture and systemic issues as being exactly the same though. There is overlap and a bad culture often leads to problems with the system but not always.

SafeSport does not have a mandate to change every sport's culture. They are tasked with looking a problems in the system and dealing with individual complaints. If they found that the complaints against Coughlin had been made before and ignored or had been dealt with badly, that would be a systemic issue they would look into. Figure skating having a bad culture is just too broad a problem and not something they are tasked with investigating.
 

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