How Gymnastics Culture Breeds Sexual Abuse
Jamie Dantzscher told the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that, starting when she was 12 years old, a man who was supposed to be looking out for her well-being did just the opposite: He sexually abused her. She was an elite gymnast. He was the team doctor.
周二，杰米·丹切(Jamie Dantzscher)告诉参议院司法委员会(Senate Judiciary Committee)的成员，自她12岁开始，一名本该照顾她健康的男子做了恰恰相反的事：对她进行性虐待。她是一名优秀的体操运动员。他则是队医。
Ms. Dantzscher, who was a member of the bronze-medal-winning 2000 women’s Olympic gymnastics team, was speaking at hearing on a bill with potential to check the culture of a sport in which young girls are too often victimized, by requiring that the adults who work with them report suspected sexual abuse.
Her testimony, which was at times delivered through tears, left me feeling a familiar sense of dread. As a former elite gymnast and the 1986 national champion, I understand all too well the dynamics that have been brought to light by the recent onslaught of public allegations of sexual misconduct against young athletes.
Women’s gymnastics is a sport in which the athletes are very young and barely clothed, and many of the coaches are male. It is a sport in which screaming insults at children is considered an accepted motivational technique, in which competing with severe injuries is the norm, in which discouraging athletes from eating is common practice and in which abuse, broadly defined, is standard.
This is widely known within the sport, and now the even more sinister side of the world of gymnastics is getting broader attention.
Larry Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics, faces multiple sexual assault and pornography charges involving at least seven gymnasts.
前美国体操协会(USA Gymnastics)的队医拉里·纳萨尔(Larry Nassar)面临多项性侵和色情指控，其中涉及至少七名体操运动员。
“Dr. Nassar abused me at the U.S. national training center in Texas,” Ms. Dantzscher, who’s now 34, said at Tuesday’s hearing. “He abused me in California at meets and all over the world. Many times the abuse took place in my own room and my own bed. Worse, he abused me in my hotel room in Sydney at the Olympic Games.”
She said in a February interview with “60 Minutes” that, under the guise of treating her back pain and other injuries, he would insert his hand into her vagina. It’s a procedure that Dr. Nassar’s attorney maintains is a standard osteopathic treatment. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, a spokeswoman for the American Osteopathic Association disagreed.
她在今年2月接受《60分钟》(60 Minutes)节目采访时表示，他会以治疗她的背痛及其他伤痛为借口，把手伸进她的阴道。纳萨尔的律师坚称这项程序是一种标准的正骨疗法。在接受《体育画报》(Sports Illustrated)采访时，美国骨疗协会(American Osteopathic Association)的一名发言人对此表示异议。
Dr. Nassar has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him; USA Gymnastics has denied any wrongdoing in the matter and emphasized that it reported him to the F.B.I.
The problems within gymnastics culture are much bigger than the allegations against this doctor. An investigation by IndyStar has revealed that between 1996 and 2006, USA Gymnastics failed to immediately ban some of the 54 coaches who had sexual abuse convictions. (In a March 3 statement, USA Gymnastics said that of the 54 coaches whose sexual abuse complaint files were in the court documents obtained by IndyStar, it had banned 37, and “48 of the matters involved law enforcement.”)
But in a 2015 deposition, Steve Penny, then the C.E.O. of the gymnastics organization, suggested that it was not obligated to make such reports. “To the best of my knowledge, there’s no duty to report if you are — if you are a third party to some allegation,” he said.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Rick Adams, chief of Paralympic sports for the United States Olympic Committee, said, “The athletes have spoken very clearly to what is a flawed culture where the brand and the sport and the results are given a higher priority than the health and well-being of the athletes.”
在周二进行的听证会上，美国奥委会(United States Olympic Committee)残奥会主管里克·亚当斯(Rick Adams)表示，“运动员们非常明确地谈到了一种有缺陷的文化，在其中，品牌、运动和比赛结果被认为高于运动员的健康和福祉。”
He’s right. And I know this environment well. When I was training, I blackened my eyes when I fell on my head on the beam after fasting for three days before a competition. “I don’t coach fat gymnasts,” was a common refrain from coaches antagonizing me about my weight. I competed on an injured ankle swollen to the size of a baseball. At one point, I required monthly cortisone injections to limp through my floor routine.
After I broke my femur at the 1985 world championships, I had the cast removed early under pressure from my coaches so that I could train for the next national championships. I competed and won, but not without breaking the opposite ankle in the process.
The message I got was that if you couldn’t take it, you were weak. If you complained, you didn’t deserve to be on the team. In fact, if you perceived it as abuse, rather than just plain old tough coaching, you were delusional.
I wasn’t the victim of sexual misconduct. But the consequences of the culture that allowed the kind of treatment I endured can’t be overstated. In such an environment, you learn to focus only on achievement and to disregard your own sense of right and wrong, along with your own well-being. Because of this, I can understand how young gymnasts might be confused about whether and how to speak up for themselves when they’ve been mistreated.
But there’s no excuse for adults to turn a blind eye to sexual misconduct.
That’s why the new bill — which would require amateur-athletics governing bodies and those who work at their facilities to report sex-abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement, or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department — is so important.
While the attention of lawmakers and Penny’s March 16 resignation are encouraging signs of change, they are just the beginning. To dramatically shift the culture that has allowed abuse to go unchecked, wholesale change in leadership is required. That includes the board of directors and other key leadership positions at USA Gymnastics.
In addition, the organization should more stringently mandate education programs for coaches and athletes, covering topics like what is acceptable touching and what is not. When it comes to suspected sexual assault, reporting protocol must be well outlined and adhered to, and the consequence of noncompliance should be loss of membership.
The strength and discipline of our gymnasts shouldn’t cause us to forget that most of them are children for a majority of their careers. The coaches, officials and other adults charged with harnessing their talents must also stand up for their well-being.
I wish I’d had someone to stand up for me.