Tarah Kayne details abuse allegations against sanctioned coach Sappenfield

Willin

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,606
It’s not that simple. Most (not all) crimes are a matter of state law, and some states may define some kinds of harassment and verbal abuse as crimes. For example, stalking, elder or child abuse, threats of domestic violence, etc. But probably not this.
That's the awful part. This can be just as harmful and awful as those other situations but isn't included because the context isn't correct. I would consider abusing another adult this way verbal abuse, but since she's not a child and not elderly and not in a familial/household relationship it somehow doesn't count?
 

Vagabond

Well-Known Member
Messages
25,469
That's the awful part. This can be just as harmful and awful as those other situations but isn't included because the context isn't correct. I would consider abusing another adult this way verbal abuse, but since she's not a child and not elderly and not in a familial/household relationship it somehow doesn't count?
It is a great shame that there is no remedy at law or equity for people in such situations. We, as a society and as individuals, need to come up with some way of protecting and helping them.

I say this both as a lawyer and as someone who has suffered from abuse.
 
Last edited:

stjeaskategym

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,397
What I don't get, is that Alexa and Chris let her be the one to officiate at their marriage. I'm pretty sure these two did not know what was going on exactly, but it still feels strange. Did she act differently towards them (presumably: yes), and especially towards Alexa? Especially as it seems 'girls' or 'women' were the main victims. Although this kind of talk is pretty toxic towards men as well.

Dalilah acted motherly towards her skaters, at least some of them. She even adopted one whose parents had died (Larry Ibarra), so she appeared to have a good heart and treated her skaters as if they were her own. Alexa & Chris had Dalilah officiate their wedding because she's the reason they found each other and became a pair and stuck together through adversity. They had a skating-themed wedding (they attached a blade to a boot to symbolize their union), so it made sense to have Dalilah officiate. This was back in 2016 when Dalilah was seen as a gift to US skating with a great reputation for the most part. It's not that deep who officiates your wedding- it's usually not someone you're very close to.

Alexa & Chris were the best pair Dalilah has ever coached (I'd say Alexa is the most talented pair skater she's ever coached), so they were likely spared from her wrath more so than skaters she found more disposable (like Caitlin Yankowskas).

Alexa was very ill during the year of her wedding. Dalilah reportedly accompanied K/K to countless doctors appointments and emergency room visits as they were trying to figure out what was wrong with her. She sat in waiting rooms with Chris while Alexa was having surgeries and spent a good amount of time keeping Alexa company in her hospital room. Alexa said she felt Dalilah wanted her to be healthy again not just because of skating, but because she cared about her as a person. So essentially, this was the opposite type of experience that Tarah Kayne had.

Chris mentioned something like- when he couldn't pay Dalilah for his lessons on time, she was very understanding and accommodating. It's long been known that Dalilah tends to really value her pair boys and treats them well. But she and Chris weren't close; she said he was very quiet and hardly spoke. But she coached him longer than any other pair boy she had, so naturally she likely felt more of a connection to him than with skaters who were here today, gone tomorrow.

Still, Alexa & Chris reached a breaking point with Dalilah where they split with her practically minutes after the 2018 Olympic season concluded. There was clear tension between Alexa and Dalilah at the point, although they seemed to be trying hard to keep things civil. Who knows what exactly went down between them (I don't need to know), but Alexa in particular definitely seemed hurt and upset by whatever it was. It was strange how abrupt K/K's split with Dalilah was, and it left them coachless aside from the times they were coached by Aljona Savchenko, which wasn't ideal. There were rumors of mounting tension over the attention Dalilah was giving TJ Nyman, who was living in her house at the time. It sounded as if things may have been becoming toxic and that K/K weren't fully prepared for 2018 Worlds because of it.

Alexa briefly mentioned in an interview about getting screamed at, but she said it in a way that made it seem like that was normal coaching and not something that crossed the line into abuse. You never know though, as there's a fine line between harsh coaching and abuse. And sometimes the skater can't identify what that line is.

But abusers don't abuse EVERYONE they come in contact with. Usually it's just a select few, and then they act like nice, normal people around everyone else. There once was a mother whose children skated pairs with Dalilah, and she would post many of their training clips. As someone who is obsessed with pair skating, I would always watch these grainy clips, mainly looking for glimpses of Dalilah's top pairs. Nothing seemed off about the training sessions and how she treated her students. For every skater who has had an awful experience with her, there's another who may have had a better experience. Even skaters who were abused might still have nice things to say about a coach. So no, I don't think it's surprising or strange at all that Alexa & Chris at one point had a good enough relationship with her to have her officiate their wedding. (Just to be perfectly clear, I'm not defending Dalilah in any way. I'm just speaking about the relationship she had and then lost with K/K)

Alexa has said and done some problematic things herself and is kinda known for sticking her foot in her mouth. I don't think she's abusive or awful like Dalilah - more misguided - but it may be she is just a kindred spirit to Dalilah. It's possible she didn't register the abuse as anything but the sort of abrasive language she herself uses. I feel it's more likely that Alexa's just a strong enough personality that Dalilah felt she couldn't victimize her. Maybe Dalilah even saw her as enough of a kindred spirit that she not only felt she couldn't victimize her, but saw her as one of a few female skaters worthy of respect.

Or, more likely, I've also always felt that they were a partnership that was special to Dalilah in some way. Maybe that they're both conservative Christians in a monogamous relationship with each other (and she liked her pairs dating eachother), maybe that they were her golden goose pair she couldn't afford to lose, maybe something else... But either way she always seemed to treat them different than her other pairs in general in the K&Cs and talked about them differently than her other pairs.

Where? I've followed Alexa extensively for years and she's known to be a good person. I've never heard her say anything that bothered me enough to call it problematic. She's a strong personality and wears her heart on her sleeve, and like everyone else, she isn't perfect and nothing she or anyone says will satisfy everyone. Some of the same people who "cancelled" Tarah Kayne for wearing a red hat and sobbing in the Kiss & Cry in support of John Coughlin are now standing by her. The internet is fickle like that.

I think you're over-complicating this. Of course K/K were special to Dalilah and she treated them differently, this will be her only Olympic pair. Coaches gravitate toward their top skaters; they have to. They're traveling around the world and spending a ton of time with them. More energy is invested in your top skater. Alexa is very talented, exactly the type of pair skater Dalilah wanted to work with. It has nothing to do with her being religious or married, and Alexa has never alluded to being conservative politically, if that's what you're referring to. I think Dalilah wanted to coach strong talent and was okay with using any sort of tactic to try to push skaters who got on her nerves out the door, which is a shame. Aside from Kayne and Yankowskas, I can't think of any other skater who she seemed to want gone, and she has always coached varying levels of talent, but maybe there are more examples, who knows.
 
Last edited:

overedge

Mayor of Carrot City
Messages
35,877
@Tavi thanks, I have some familiarity with employment law and definitions of "employee". I was speculating more about whether the skaters could be considered USFS employees, like how some athletes who play collegiate sports can now potentially be considered employees of the higher education institution they play sports for.
 

Karen-W

How long do we have to wait for GP assignments?
Messages
36,457
@Tavi thanks, I have some familiarity with employment law and definitions of "employee". I was speculating more about whether the skaters could be considered USFS employees, like how some athletes who play collegiate sports can now potentially be considered employees of the higher education institution they play sports for.
Well, but the athletes playing collegiate sports sued because their colleges & universities were making a LOT of money using their Name, Image & Likeness. I'm not sure you can make an argument that the USFS is making money the same way some of these collegiate athletic departments are with their star football and basketball players, and thus turning their top skaters into "employees" in the same way since, by all accounts, the USFS operates on a pretty lean budget and isn't profiting.
 

MsZem

I see the sea
Messages
18,495
USFS deleted comments re: abuse on its Instagram post about cryptocurrency.
They could have deleted the post instead.

What happened to Tarah is horrifying and I hope she's getting the support she needs and deserves. Also horrifying: this is just one of the complaints against Sappenfield. So many skaters hurt, perhaps as badly as Tarah was. Possibly even worse.
 

hanca

Values her privacy
Messages
12,547
What I don't get, is that Alexa and Chris let her be the one to officiate at their marriage. I'm pretty sure these two did not know what was going on exactly, but it still feels strange. Did she act differently towards them (presumably: yes), and especially towards Alexa? Especially as it seems 'girls' or 'women' were the main victims. Although this kind of talk is pretty toxic towards men as well.

I'm happy though that Danny is supportive.
Abuse is not so straightforward when you are the one caught in it. When you are caught in it, you often believe that you deserve coaches’ behaviour because you provoked it somehow. So you start blaming yourself and justify whatever the coach did.

I have experience of one abusive relationship with my coach in the past, (not sexual abuse, just severe mistreatment of myself and most of the other students). We were not even elite skaters. And I was just an adult skater, so there was even less need to be abusive towards me because it is not as if the coach was trying to make me a champion.

For my job I am trained to spot signs of abuse. I have no problems spotting abuse when it is happening, and yet when it was happening towards me, it took me two years before I was able to accept that this is abuse and get out of this situation! The coach was a very skilled manipulator. She started with being nice, and the ‘bad times’ and ‘bad lessons’ initially did not happen very often, so when they happened, it was easy to blame myself and wonder what I did to set her off.

The coach was a very skilled teacher, possibly the best at the rink and all her students always made the fastest progress. Having this coach meant that we would pass the tests. I know it doesn’t justify the abuse, but to us at that time, it was a sign that she was a great coach and we had to just get on with it. We were supporting each other (outside lessons), joking how we ‘survive’ the treatment, giving each other information such as ‘what mood is she in today’?.

Looking back at it, I really don’t understand why it took me so long to see it. It was like some brainwashing cult. We were actually proud that we were her students, we were proud that ‘she is so strict’ because we thought this is what was getting the results. (that’s how we were looking at it - seeing it as being strict rather than being abusive). We were proud that we could endure her lessons, and we saw each other as ‘warriors’. What she did to us or said was not discussed with any outsiders, only with people she coached. Partly because we felt ashamed, believing it was our fault that we caused her behaviour and partly because we didn’t think anyone who hasn’t experienced it would understand. Like some cult, us against them.

Looking back, I just think WTF! I still don’t really understand how I placed myself into that situation and then why it took me so long to get out, with all the theoretical knowledge about abuse I had.
 

Flip Jump

Well-Known Member
Messages
405
Reading all of this being someone who works in the mental health field, this completely breaks me. I am SO proud of Tarah for sharing her truth as I am sure there are several other skaters who had similar experiences.
I know many people knew/suspected misbehavior from Delilah for over a decade. I think she created an illusion that attracted skaters and parents to her. When she adopted Larry Ibarra and this became known information on the nationals broadcast, many saw this as a wonderful thing (which it certainly was) but also may have helped hide some of the less wonderful things that she has done. Sad situation for all involved.
 

Tavi

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,233
@Tavi thanks, I have some familiarity with employment law and definitions of "employee". I was speculating more about whether the skaters could be considered USFS employees, like how some athletes who play collegiate sports can now potentially be considered employees of the higher education institution they play sports for.
Yes, I know you were. 😊 Perhaps I’ve missed your point, and forgive me if I’m saying something you already know, but even assuming the skater could prove they were a USFS employee or contractor, an employer isn’t liable for everything that happens to an employee; there has to be some kind of nexus or duty, control, and notice. The main issue I see here is that unless USFS has some kind of control over Sappenfield or the rink where she coaches, they aren’t liable for her actions. The issue in collegiate sports is different because the athletes aren’t claiming the universities failed to protect them (at least I don’t think so, correct me if I’m wrong) but that they are profiting off athletes’ work without paying them.

ETA if you were just wondering apart from the harassment issue whether a skater could ever be considered a USFS employee and not about the liability issue, sorry!
 
Last edited:

bethy135

Active Member
Messages
63
Abuse is not so straightforward when you are the one caught in it. When you are caught in it, you often believe that you deserve coaches’ behaviour because you provoked it somehow. So you start blaming yourself and justify whatever the coach did.

I have experience of one abusive relationship with my coach in the past, (not sexual abuse, just severe mistreatment of myself and most of the other students). We were not even elite skaters. And I was just an adult skater, so there was even less need to be abusive towards me because it is not as if the coach was trying to make me a champion.

For my job I am trained to spot signs of abuse. I have no problems spotting abuse when it is happening, and yet when it was happening towards me, it took me two years before I was able to accept that this is abuse and get out of this situation! The coach was a very skilled manipulator. She started with being nice, and the ‘bad times’ and ‘bad lessons’ initially did not happen very often, so when they happened, it was easy to blame myself and wonder what I did to set her off.

The coach was a very skilled teacher, possibly the best at the rink and all her students always made the fastest progress. Having this coach meant that we would pass the tests. I know it doesn’t justify the abuse, but to us at that time, it was a sign that she was a great coach and we had to just get on with it. We were supporting each other (outside lessons), joking how we ‘survive’ the treatment, giving each other information such as ‘what mood is she in today’?.

Looking back at it, I really don’t understand why it took me so long to see it. It was like some brainwashing cult. We were actually proud that we were her students, we were proud that ‘she is so strict’ because we thought this is what was getting the results. (that’s how we were looking at it - seeing it as being strict rather than being abusive). We were proud that we could endure her lessons, and we saw each other as ‘warriors’. What she did to us or said was not discussed with any outsiders, only with people she coached. Partly because we felt ashamed, believing it was our fault that we caused her behaviour and partly because we didn’t think anyone who hasn’t experienced it would understand. Like some cult, us against them.

Looking back, I just think WTF! I still don’t really understand how I placed myself into that situation and then why it took me so long to get out, with all the theoretical knowledge about abuse I had.

This is very relatable. It happens to non-elite skaters too. The culture is pervasive in this sport no matter the levels involved.
 

hanca

Values her privacy
Messages
12,547
This is very relatable. It happens to non-elite skaters too. The culture is pervasive in this sport no matter the levels involved.
I think it happens in many sports, I don’t think it is so unique for skating and gymnastics. The reason why I shared this was because someone wondered why Alexa and Chris let the coach officiate at their wedding. Quite honestly, if I was getting married at the time when I was going through this, I would definitely invite my coach too. The person who is caught up in a situation like this, they see their situation differently. They do not realise that it is abuse, they think whatever the coach is doing is for their own good. It doesn’t mean that Alexa and Chris condone abusive behaviour. It is mind manipulation, it is like if they were brainwashed.
 

PensiveChipmunk

New Member
Messages
1
Terrible things happen to skaters at the hands of coaches and others who can influence the skaters advancement. I've specifically seen how bad it is for women in "paired" disciplines. Look at the number of women who step away for mental health reasons. We have learned to applaud their transparency and bravery but the root cause still exists. Tarah's statement is the latest in a string of women speaking up and getting angry. I can't wait to read K Manta's book as I'm sure she will publicly voice many feelings on this same theme.

I don't have the answer, but it's a big reason I stepped away from my role in the sport.
 

Lemonade20

If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
Messages
2,379
In fairness, we don't know with certainty that other coaches didn't report. It's a broken system. I know with absolute certainty that skaters and coaches officially reported Callaghan and were ignored, and in some cases ostracized.

I saw the same thing happen in Catholic school. People say why didn't others report? In some cases, they did report. Their reports were ignored, and they faced retaliation including loss of jobs. The abusers never disappeared - their critics did. It's hard when entire systems are stacked against you, and I believe in my core that this has been and remains the case with USFS.

It's long past time for excuses, and it's inexcusable that Dalilah Sappenfield wasn't banned at least two to three years ago because it's been blindingly obvious that she needed to be banned at least that long ago. That said, I don't make any assumptions that people didn't report her or didn't try to help. This is absolutely, 100% a systemic issue, and it can't end with Dalilah Sappenfield.
That's the perfect analogy when you think about it. The Catholic Church has gotten so big, it's easy to sweep problems under the rug. But after a while, that rug's looking really lumpy. Same with everything that's happening now. SafeSports, USFS, etc are all too busy sweeping their problems around. I'm sick of people pointing fingers and saying it's not my problem or even worse, praising the very people who are bringing this toxic environment to the rinks.
 

ЭPiKUilyam

Banned Member
Messages
1,333
Abuse is not so straightforward when you are the one caught in it. When you are caught in it, you often believe that you deserve coaches’ behaviour because you provoked it somehow. So you start blaming yourself and justify whatever the coach did.

Looking back, I just think WTF! I still don’t really understand how I placed myself into that situation and then why it took me so long to get out, with all the theoretical knowledge about abuse I had.
A big YES to this. Thanks for posting that.
 

MacMadame

Doing all the things
Messages
58,603
Aside from Kayne and Yankowskas, I can't think of any other skater who she seemed to want gone, and she has always coached varying levels of talent, but maybe there are more examples, who knows.
There seem to be 11 other examples. (11 other complaints)

@Tavi thanks, I have some familiarity with employment law and definitions of "employee". I was speculating more about whether the skaters could be considered USFS employees, like how some athletes who play collegiate sports can now potentially be considered employees of the higher education institution they play sports for.
There is no way that skaters would be considered an employee in the US. First of all, USFS doesn't control how they do their jobs. Secondly, it doesn't pay them. (The grants that a few skaters get are a pittance compared to their expenses and hardly any skaters get them.)

The same with coaches. USFS doesn't even give them any money and doesn't control where or how they work. Some coaches might be able to argue that they are employees of rinks especially if they teach LTS classes. But not of USFS.
 

dramagrrl

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,123
In fairness, we don't know with certainty that other coaches didn't report. It's a broken system. I know with absolute certainty that skaters and coaches officially reported Callaghan and were ignored, and in some cases ostracized.

I saw the same thing happen in Catholic school. People say why didn't others report? In some cases, they did report. Their reports were ignored, and they faced retaliation including loss of jobs. The abusers never disappeared - their critics did. It's hard when entire systems are stacked against you, and I believe in my core that this has been and remains the case with USFS.
The same thing obviously happened in gymnastics, not only with Larry Nassar, but with many other abusers. The HBO documentary At the Heart of Gold focused on many non-elite gymnasts who were victims of Nassar and tracked how several of them reported (or tried to report) Nassar as early as 1997, and were either ignored, gaslighted to withdraw their complaints, or had their complaints documented, but essentially hidden in a filing cabinet somewhere and not legitimately addressed or made public in any way. He continued to abuse young women for almost twenty years after he was first reported. The media has made it seem like Rachael Denhollander (in 2016) or Maggie Nichols ("Athlete A", in 2015) were the first to report Nassar, but Rachael was the first to publicly report him and give her name to the media, while Nichols was the first to report him to USAG. Larissa Boyce, a non-elite gymnast, tried to report Nassar to Michigan State in 1997, and it is believed that there may have been even earlier reports that were hushed up and undocumented.
 

Willin

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,606
@MacMadame I would imagine Sarah Feng is on that list unless her complaint only was about TJ Nyman?

@stjeaskategym I feel she is a good person. She certainly doesn't seem intentionally mean or a bully. But as I said she speaks her mind in a way that can be very foot-in-mouth and can come off as very offensive. I know there's been a few twitter incidents she's been involved in (most deleted with no apology) and her and Chris's support of John Coughlin was a lot more fierce and questionable than that of other skaters. For instance, Chris basically called the accusers liars and Alexa supported that assertion from him...

And for the record, you cite Tarah as getting hate at the time. And she did. But unlike the Knirems, she also got support from people who noticed it seemed like she didn't want to wear the hat (and who noticed that Danny seemed less hesitant, but did turn it backwards so the logo couldn't be seen). Furthermore, now that people have more context, it's understandable - it's a reasonable change of opinion.
 

Karen-W

How long do we have to wait for GP assignments?
Messages
36,457
Just noticed that Christine Brennan is this week's guest on TSL. Listening/watching now.
 

Duchess

Member
Messages
75
These allegations are most troubling. I would be more concerned for any of the 11 people who are under the age of 21. It appears Tarah was treated badly, but she is in her mid twenties and tolerated the abuse. Some responsibility must be put on her for continuing to stay in that situation.
 

once_upon

Better off than 2020
Messages
30,260
These allegations are most troubling. I would be more concerned for any of the 11 people who are under the age of 21. It appears Tarah was treated badly, but she is in her mid twenties and tolerated the abuse. Some responsibility must be put on her for continuing to stay in that situation.
Abuse victims don't think like they have a choice.
Anyone who has listened to victims stories can tell you that they don't feel empowered to leave. Or they fear retribution for leaving.
 

hanca

Values her privacy
Messages
12,547
These allegations are most troubling. I would be more concerned for any of the 11 people who are under the age of 21. It appears Tarah was treated badly, but she is in her mid twenties and tolerated the abuse. Some responsibility must be put on her for continuing to stay in that situation.
The reason I wrote about my experience of abuse from a coach was so that people like you educate yourself at least a little bit and don’t write something so stupid! Tarah did not tolerate abuse; she was very likely caught up in it and felt she had no other way out. Her whole perception of the situation would have been skewed, she would either make excuses for the coach, thinking that ‘it was for her own good’, or thinking that she deserved such mistreatment for whatever reason.

Tarah’s age has no relevance to what happened to her. You are aware, I hope, that even adults can be abused? In fact, it is quite frequent in the society; think about elderly abuse in residential homes, or domestic abuse between adult couples… The age of the person who is being abused doesn’t make them more or less responsible for the abuse. No one deserves to be abused, and the abused person should not be taking on responsibility for the abuse, not even partially.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top
Do Not Sell My Personal Information