Tarah Kayne details abuse allegations against sanctioned coach Sappenfield

el henry

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I'm an alum of one of those two schools so no, I wouldn't dare mix them up. I was referring to the Anderson scandal in that case - which Harbaugh had a strange answer about.


This is the exact kind of infantilization I'm talking about: Oh, poor Alexa being in a sport with less money for media training. Poor Alexa for not having the same resources as others. Poor Alexa, being targeted by the cruel reporter asking an inappropriate question. My point is why not? Athletes in other sports are asked tough questions, criticized to their faces, and much worse (in the case of Biles) regardless of their wealth or resources.

Is it right? That can be debated. But is it right to say that skaters only deserve softball questions just because their sport has less resources or their governing body is incompetent? No.


I'm not saying it's right - and I feel it was very wrong in her case. I'm just saying that what Brennan asked is hardly invasive or out of line compared to what other athletes can expect.

To the contrary, I think Christine Brennan is being infantilized. Oh, poor brave Christine, standing up for everyone, speaking truth to power, asking the “tough” questions.

Her question was not “tough”, it was ill formed and ill conceived. She is not speaking truth to power in asking such a question. She appears to be ignoring the real story for self-aggrandizement in asking it.

She was out of line not because it was tough, but a useless query not designed to elicit any real info.
 

mackiecat

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@MsZem
I agree. I do believe that unless a Poster is either Alexa or Vanessa that no one know what they did or did’t know or observe. We don’t know what their legal representation has told them to say. I do fear that posters will continue to post ( here and especially on Twitter) negative comments about their skating this year ( as they have been doing to James already this season with her new partner) and the press ( while it is their job to get a story) to continue to bother them. If this affects their Olympic chances, then they two will be casualties of the abuse too.
 

Carolla5501

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While I feel for those who may be affected, it's also true that sometimes you have to face the consequences of your decision to do the "easy thing" and look away or pretend you don't know about a bad situation instead of reporting it. I have a feeling that some of these people knew something bad was going on but didn't want to make the coaches mad so they became the "abused" Maybe I am wrong, but.... skating rinks are small places with active rumor mills!

I have only had to report abuse once... and it did involved the abusive father threatening me and creating a lot of havoc in my life..but it was the right thing to do anyway.
 

Tavi

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This is the exact kind of infantilization I'm talking about: Oh, poor Alexa being in a sport with less money for media training. Poor Alexa for not having the same resources as others. Poor Alexa, being targeted by the cruel reporter asking an inappropriate question. My point is why not? Athletes in other sports are asked tough questions, criticized to their faces, and much worse (in the case of Biles) regardless of their wealth or resources.

Is it right? That can be debated. But is it right to say that skaters only deserve softball questions just because their sport has less resources or their governing body is incompetent? No.


I'm not saying it's right - and I feel it was very wrong in her case. I'm just saying that what Brennan asked is hardly invasive or out of line compared to what other athletes can expect.
Thank you for replying to my post. I won’t speak for anyone else, but as to my own comments, I think you misunderstood. I’m not criticizing Brennan for being “mean” or “cruel” to “poor Alexa” but rather asking why Brennan asked that question in that way at that press conference. Brennan is a highly experienced journalist. She has been asking questions for years, and she had plenty of time to decide exactly what she was going to ask Alexa and how she was going to ask it.

Did she ask a good, hard-hitting question worthy of an experienced reporter? Judging by its results, if her intent was to obtain further information about abuse and harassment in FS, my answer would be no. Did it elicit any new information that will further an investigation? Not that I can see. The question’s lack of clarity resulted in an unclear answer from Alexa. Are victims or potential witnesses more likely to trust / contact Brennan as a result of her asking a “tough” question in that press conference? Jury’s still out on that one, and of course different people may feel differently about this, but speaking as a victim of sexual assault who had the pleasure of testifying before a grand jury myself, my guess would be no. I personally would not trust her.

Think of it this way: What are people talking about here? For the most part, they’re not talking about Tarah’s experience or the story she told or whether there is a culture of silence and abuse in FS. They are talking about Christine Brennan. Whether that was the unintended consequence of a poorly worded question I can’t say. But at the very least, I don’t think the question was useful in furthering an investigation into abuse in FS.
 

B.Cooper

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I don't think anyone has said that it isn't her job to bring light to the issue. The question is whether this tactic was appropriate, especially since there are so many other people with so much more power who had responsibility to report for so many years, plus the way an experience journalist phrased a dual question to imply that Knierim coaching career was especially relevant. And she didn't ask them or Knierim's partner.
Brennan, Hersh....they all ask questions at times that seem inappropriate...or confusing to the athlete, misleading, etc. They are journalists with many miles under their feet. The skaters that they are interviewing perhaps have been doing pressers for a few years. Inexperience and lack of preparation speak volumes. One has to learn to deflect or just not answer the question. But that comes with experience and age. I am not placing blame. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory of being in the public eye. Yes, I would love to see the journalists take the lead, and be the adults in the room and craft their questions so as not to mislead, or probe in areas for opinions that should not be part of the conversation.
 

overedge

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To the contrary, I think Christine Brennan is being infantilized. Oh, poor brave Christine, standing up for everyone, speaking truth to power, asking the “tough” questions.

Her question was not “tough”, it was ill formed and ill conceived. She is not speaking truth to power in asking such a question. She appears to be ignoring the real story for self-aggrandizement in asking it.

You seem to be ascribing an awful lot of motivations to what Brennan did without providing any real proof. I've worked with self-aggrandizing journalists, and she doesn't look like one to me. If by "self-aggrandizing" you mean getting her own name out there along with the story - that can be a very useful technique for reporters, to get other victims/survivors, witnesses, or insiders to contact you and give you more information.

I don't get what you mean by "ignoring the real story". If you mean that the "real story" is why USFS apparently let Sappenfield get away with being abusive for so long - no journalist is going to get very far by quizzing USFS reps about that at a press conference set up to publicize skaters going to a competition. Just because Brennan and other journalists didn't ask those sorts of questions in public doesn't mean that they're not asking those questions elsewhere.
 

el henry

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You seem to be ascribing an awful lot of motivations to what Brennan did without providing any real proof. I've worked with self-aggrandizing journalists, and she doesn't look like one to me. If by "self-aggrandizing" you mean getting her own name out there along with the story - that can be a very useful technique for reporters, to get other victims/survivors, witnesses, or insiders to contact you and give you more information.

I don't get what you mean by "ignoring the real story". If you mean that the "real story" is why USFS apparently let Sappenfield get away with being abusive for so long - no journalist is going to get very far by quizzing USFS reps about that at a press conference set up to publicize skaters going to a competition. Just because Brennan and other journalists didn't ask those sorts of questions in public doesn't mean that they're not asking those questions elsewhere.

What is the real story?
What did USFS officials know? When did they realize Dalilah's camp was a horror show for at least some skaters? Why did they encourage skaters to leave perfectly good camps go there? I could think of many many other related questions. That's what I want Christine Brennan, or anyone else, to provide.

You are absolutely right that no one is going to get any info on what happened at Dalilah's camp during a Skate America presser. Which makes it even more bizarre to me that Brennan posed a question in no way, shape or form designed to get any of that crucial, important information, to Alexa.

It is true, I am basing my opinion on the half hour (I didn't watch the pairs in SLC part) where she told me how wonderful she was, told me that she was pursuing the story, and told me how neutral she was. And then the next day asked a question that made no sense, and then seemed to be proud of her question because she tweeted it out? So, perhaps I am wrong in my assessment, but I believe her actions support it.

I am going to leave off here, because pages and pages have been spent on what I see as a query that was at best useless, and others do not, and I don't think there is really anything new to say.

I do hope and pray we learn what we need to learn, from whatever source.🙏 And if Christine provides that info, I will acknowledge it and thank her.
 

Theatregirl1122

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For me, it has been clear from the outset that there are plenty of people with an apparent vested interest in trying to completely discredit Brennan as the one US skating journalist exposing sexual abuse.

It has been clear to me from the outset that anyone who thinks that Brennan does anything other than perfectly is going to be accused of supporting sexual abuse despite any other track record they may have on this board or anywhere else
 

Willin

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Well, for the record, I don't think Brennan did it perfectly - that second question was rather confusing both in content (I'm pretty sure Alexa wasn't a mandated reporter in that situation) and in wording. But I will defend her right to ask those questions and applaud her for being the only journalist seemingly willing to ask those questions.

And, for the record, I don't think the people criticizing her are supporting sexual abuse, but I do think people are very much clutching their pearls about Brennan asking questions that in this day and age are acceptable to ask in that context.
 

sadya

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I have mixed feelings about Brennan. I want to believe that she cares about the safety of the athletes and that main goal is to fight for that, by bringing attention to all kinds of abuse happening which the public won't know about. Then she says or writes something which makes me doubt her and disappoints me and I start wondering about her real reasons for doing it. I just don't know what to think about her. I just hope that whatever her intentions are, a very important part would be to really want to help people and I hope that she finds a healthy and balanced way of doing that and that it will help to stop the abuse.
 

Lemonade20

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I have mixed feelings about Brennan. I want to believe that she cares about the safety of the athletes and that main goal is to fight for that, by bringing attention to all kinds of abuse happening which the public won't know about. Then she says or writes something which makes me doubt her and disappoints me and I start wondering about her real reasons for doing it. I just don't know what to think about her. I just hope that whatever her intentions are, a very important part would be to really want to help people and I hope that she finds a healthy and balanced way of doing that and that it will help to stop the abuse.
Completely agree, we need someone who's not afraid to ask the hard questions but do it right and not back down. It's almost like they need someone who's not so closely linked to skating that can investigate and bring it all out in the open.
 

Doggygirl

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I'm just catching up on this thread after several days away from FSU. My heart continues to break for Tarah and all of the victims of DS. I admire their courage and pray for their healing.

I would like to share an observation about some things that were being discussed several pages ago. It was mentioned that Delilah's relationship with some skaters (i.e. Alexa/Chris, TJ) was different than her relationship with others (i.e. Tarah). I think there is a really obvious underlying issue in all of these examples - extreme lack of healthy boundaries. In Tarah's case, the boundary violations resulted in abuse. But I would submit that it seems unhealthy boundaries existed with the others as well. Our collective red flags should start going up when we hear things like "the coach officiated the wedding" or "the coach let the student live in her home." Is it "unhealthy" every time one of these circumstances happen? Perhaps not. But to me these are big read flags. Coaches standing in as quasi-parents or family...etc..... One cannot have healthy relationships without healthy boundaries. And it seems like situations with unhealthy boundaries are all over the place in the figure skating community - situations that seem to be far more enmeshed than a coach/athlete (especially child athlete) should be. I don't know what the answer is, but I think way too much unhealthy stuff has become normalized. Normalized lack of appropriate boundaries = a climate ripe for abuse.
 

VGThuy

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For me, it has been clear from the outset that there are plenty of people with an apparent vested interest in trying to completely discredit Brennan as the one US skating journalist exposing sexual abuse.
Surely, things are more nuanced than that. This stance is basically calling every poster who has criticized Brennan’s methods or has issues with her past reporting (many of them are problematic and haven’t stuck to the facts and even sensationalized stories and pushed falsehoods) as being the same people as those who want to silence sexual assault victims or support the USFS’ handling of sexual assault. Are you really saying every poster who has taken a different position from yours on Brennan is actively wanting to sweep sexual assault under the rug and wants this culture to continue? Take a look at every poster and their actual posting history on this board, and let me know if that’s the hill you want to die on. It’s quite insulting to actual posters here who have not done anything close to what your sentiment has accused them of doing or wanting to do.
 
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Tangoer

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I'm just catching up on this thread after several days away from FSU. My heart continues to break for Tarah and all of the victims of DS. I admire their courage and pray for their healing.

I would like to share an observation about some things that were being discussed several pages ago. It was mentioned that Delilah's relationship with some skaters (i.e. Alexa/Chris, TJ) was different than her relationship with others (i.e. Tarah). I think there is a really obvious underlying issue in all of these examples - extreme lack of healthy boundaries. In Tarah's case, the boundary violations resulted in abuse. But I would submit that it seems unhealthy boundaries existed with the others as well. Our collective red flags should start going up when we hear things like "the coach officiated the wedding" or "the coach let the student live in her home." Is it "unhealthy" every time one of these circumstances happen? Perhaps not. But to me these are big read flags. Coaches standing in as quasi-parents or family...etc..... One cannot have healthy relationships without healthy boundaries. And it seems like situations with unhealthy boundaries are all over the place in the figure skating community - situations that seem to be far more enmeshed than a coach/athlete (especially child athlete) should be. I don't know what the answer is, but I think way too much unhealthy stuff has become normalized. Normalized lack of appropriate boundaries = a climate ripe for abuse.
Couldn’t agree more! Whether it results in abuse or favoritism, lack of boundaries is unprofessional at best and extremely dangerous/unhealthy to the point of of suicide at worst.
 

Rob

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Given that USFS undoubtedly didn’t prepare Alexa to answer this question - if at all - like a good lawyer would have prepared her for deposition or trial, I personally am willing to cut her a little slack on the quality of her answer. 😊
agree and a good lawyer would have objected to the compound question.
 

Rob

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I don't agree with this characterization. This was a press conference, not a court trial, so judging what Brennan did by the standards of what happens in court is meaningless.
Except the basis for the court rule is pretty much the same as it is for any other situation - if you want a meaningful answer to a question, don't ask 2 questions together.
 

ЭPiKUilyam

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@MsZem
I agree. I do believe that unless a Poster is either Alexa or Vanessa that no one know what they did or did’t know or observe. We don’t know what their legal representation has told them to say. I do fear that posters will continue to post ( here and especially on Twitter) negative comments about their skating this year ( as they have been doing to James already this season with her new partner) and the press ( while it is their job to get a story) to continue to bother them. If this affects their Olympic chances, then they two will be casualties of the abuse too.
I've noticed this too. Especially by Dave. But that might be due to he has to suck up to whatever her name is spelled Meghan. There's ALOT of negative energy in the posts about James and Radford. One would expect an interesting pair like that would be supported and at this point people would be impressed with how well they've come together in such a short time. But no. Negative Nellies.
 

overedge

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Except the basis for the court rule is pretty much the same as it is for any other situation - if you want a meaningful answer to a question, don't ask 2 questions together.

Yes, I said that earlier on in the thread. My point was that comparing questioning styles in a press conference to questioning styles in a court procedure is a meaningless comparison.
 

Vagabond

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agree and a good lawyer would have objected to the compound question.
It was a press conference, not a hearing.
Except the basis for the court rule is pretty much the same as it is for any other situation - if you want a meaningful answer to a question, don't ask 2 questions together.
The poorly considered question is Christine Brennan's fault; the poorly considered answer is Alexa Knierim's.
 

ЭPiKUilyam

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For me, it has been clear from the outset that there are plenty of people with an apparent vested interest in trying to completely discredit Brennan as the one US skating journalist exposing sexual abuse.
Well, she's always been so smug and slippery. I find it unfortunate myself, as a victim of sexual abuse, that her arrogant smiling face is what I have to watch to get information on this issue.
 

stjeaskategym

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It's weird that we are now acting as if Alexa is Tarah's skating partner. I don't get the comparison to Vanessa James, who had a super close relationship with Morgan Cipres (they were together romantically at some point?) and therefore may have possibly known about his texting habits, relationships, etc. It's also possible Vanessa knew nothing, because people often don't discuss their sexual relationships (especially illegal ones) with others.

Meanwhile, Tarah's actual skating partner, Danny O'Shea, is getting no attention. Some people are fixated on Alexa because Christine Brennan asked her a lousy question, meanwhile Tarah's own partner, who stood there and watched Sappenfield treat her this way for who knows how long without reporting it, is given a free pass. Tarah told Danny about her self-harm as a result of Dalilah, and he didn't tell anyone. Instead he helped Tarah super glue the wounds on her wrist together in a dorm room instead of at a hospital, which could have caused infection or something worse. I wonder how many people saw her scars.

I'm assuming people don't think Danny was responsible for reporting Tarah's abuse that he witnessed himself because he was in a vulnerable position and feared his coach. I get that. Yet Alexa was in the same position as a skater, yet much further removed from this story. I have no way of knowing for sure, but as an outsider, it seems that the two skaters who bothered Dalilah the most were Caitlin Yankowskas and Tarah. Alexa never trained with either of them.

How many women decided to skate with TJ Nyman after someone came forward with abuse allegations? At least 2. Who employed TJ as a coach after those allegations came out? Which skaters continued to skate at that rink after those allegations came out? All of this is way more relevant than discussing Alexa's California coaching side gig. How far removed from her time with Dalilah does Alexa have to be to stop being associated with Dalilah. She's far from the bad guy here.


I seem to recall some mention of Alexa and/or Chris coaching while they were still Sappenfield's students, as in occasionally coaching lower-level skaters at the same rink to earn some income. Does anyone else remember this?

No, Alexa & Chris started coaching in California. In Colorado, Chris often worked as a mechanic. They earned a good amount of prize money, did some shows, had A-Envelope USFS funding every year, and had sponsors leading up to the Olympics. They weren't coaching. Despite what Christine Brennan tried to get people to believe, Alexa was not a coach at that rink. They had lost some income when they moved to California, so they started coaching a few students.

I'm not sure what difference it would have made even if they had been coaches there. They likely wouldn't have been coaching on Dalilah's sessions anyway since that's when they did their own training (the high level pairs were on separate sessions than lower level singles skaters). It was useless and misleading for Brennan to even mention Alexa's coaching job in CA, acting as if she was coaching on the same rink where Tarah was.

All of you who are so certain that you would report abuse...have you reported any abuse? Especially unseen or not experienced by you?

Everyone says they would, but when they're directly involved, they often don't. People hope or assume somebody else will report it and take care of the problem, and they don't want to get in trouble or get involved in the mess themselves. How many thousands of people witnessed that video a while back of a Russian coach physically grabbing her student (IIRC)? Did you all report it to the Russian federation? Skaters have to focus on their own training. It's not their job to decide if the scream on the other side of the rink was abuse or harsh coaching. And they could get punished for speaking out.
 
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stjeaskategym

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Knierim's response to one of Brennan's questions appears to indicate that she either did not witness Sappenfield violate the applicable code or that she did not perceive any conduct to be abuse.

Alexa's response could have meant anything, including the 2 things you mentioned. It's also possible she spoke with SafeSport about Dalilah (good or bad), but it's not safe for her to actually announce that publicly. SafeSport doesn't release the names of witnesses and victims. I'm amazed that a few people here act as if this should actually be public knowledge, and that if a skater doesn't announce they spoke SafeSport (or has nothing to say) it means they must be guilty of something.


I do fear that posters will continue to post ( here and especially on Twitter) negative comments about their skating this year ( as they have been doing to James already this season with her new partner) and the press ( while it is their job to get a story) to continue to bother them.

Twitter says negative stuff about literally every high level skater; if they can twist something into a negative, they will. They feast on drama and controversy, and I don't find that app representative of real life. They were on Nathan Chen's case earlier this year for something he said (and many Hanyu fanatics also hate him). They are always on Zach Donohue's case too. Or Vincent Zhou's. I can't remember why they are mad at each skater, and I think they forget too. How many people still think Alexa wore a red hat? It's exhausting having to correct the misinformation. As for Vanessa & Eric, they have plenty of support too. No person in the public eye is universally loved or disliked.

It was a press conference, not a hearing.

The poorly considered question is Christine Brennan's fault; the poorly considered answer is Alexa Knierim's.

I don't consider "I prefer to keep personal and private stuff private, it's a touchy subject" a poor answer. Was it really eloquent? No. But Alexa had 1 second to formulate a response to a weird, confusing-at-best question. Brennan didn't clarify if she wanted to know if Alexa was a mandatory reporter now, or back when she was Dalilah's student. I also couldn't tell why she was even asking Alexa that or if she was trying to accuse her of something, and it made me not trust her. Any Dalilah question was going to get a "that's private" response.

Was Alexa supposed to say she was a mandatory reporter if she wasn't? If she said she was a mandatory reporter now, would people have interpreted that as she reported Sappenfield? And do we know what Sappenfield would do if Alexa said something against her? When the woman Emma Tang came forward with allegations against Sappenfield, Sappenfield immediately threatened to have her lawyers contact her (Emma posted a screenshot of this). I believe at some point Tang said she was afraid of Sappenfield, and she wasn't even in skating circles anymore. So if Alexa had something to tell SafeSport (we have no way of knowing if she did or not) was she supposed to publicly announce that she had talked to them and that she had a problem with Dalilah? Think about it, please.

For me, it has been clear from the outset that there are plenty of people with an apparent vested interest in trying to completely discredit Brennan as the one US skating journalist exposing sexual abuse.

No, a lot of people respect Brennan's work, and it's not right to accuse people of not caring about abuse. However, it's no secret Brennan loves a scandal, and she loves attention. She loves making TV appearances, she loves going on TSL, and it's human nature to be motivated by Likes/RTs. Brennan loves talking about Nancy & Tonya, she loves talking about the 2002 Olympic Pairs scandal, she loves talking about herself. She isn't a journalist who just lays low and reports facts. Scandal gives her a thrill. Those who are acting as if she's a saint who's trying to save figure skating from abuse should look deeper at her motives. A lot of journalists believe the juicier the story, the better; that's pretty much their job. They aren't flawless people who ask flawless questions. She was trying to trip Alexa up and get her to say something. She's probably even glad we are discussing her right now even if it's criticism.
 
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Carolla5501

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This thread has taken some bizarre turns..

It's turned into one poster making an announcements that SHE alone decides what people get to post and since she didn't like the way people were talking about Alexa we should stop (Wonder if she stomped her feet while throwing that fit?)

And then there's the group that that thinks 'Shooting the messenger" is a good system. Brennan could say 'the sky is blue" and at least half the posters on here would find an issue with her reporting LOL (And of course as "internet message board posters" we are all experts on how others do their job, wonder if we could stand up to this type of judgement in our real life)
 

Vagabond

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Meanwhile, Tarah's actual skating partner, Danny O'Shea, is getting no attention. Some people are fixated on Alexa because Christine Brennan asked her a lousy question, meanwhile Tarah's own partner, who stood there and watched Sappenfield treat her this way for who knows how long without reporting it, is given a free pass.
For all we know, he (1) did report it as soon as it happened and/or (2) was himself a victim of abuse.

But let's not speculate. Let's concentrate on what we do know. And it appears that you know nothing more than the rest of us.
 

Lemonade20

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This is just sad and tough to see. Pointing fingers and blaming people won't make this go away or erase what happened. We only know the tip of the iceberg when it comes to everything, so we can't assume anything yet. Alexa might not have been in a position to say anything, so it's unfair to judge her for that.
 

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