Speaking Up About Sexually Abusive Coaches

Out of fear and shame, each of these young women kept their abuse a secret for months, even years -- even as they saw their coaches start the grooming process with younger teammates.

Both Bryan and Shull said they continued to keep quiet and let their coaches abuse them, hoping that might keep their coaches from abusing other girls.

"That's probably the worst part," Shull said, "because I feel like it's my fault that I didn't say anything that this child also had to go through what I did."

Bryan was referring to a younger victim, who was the first to report Hicks' abuse.

Punishment Often Lenient for Abusers; Victims Say Scars Endure

How severely were their tormentors punished? Hicks pleaded guilty to abusing both Bryan and the younger victim, and was released after nine months for good behavior. Tony Giles was convicted of abusing a younger player, and is serving 20 months; Jonathan Novy got three years; Dennis Jones pleaded to an assault charge, but served only six days.

Light sentences can be the result of prosecutors' reluctance to make the victims relive their abuse on the stand in a courtroom, but some relive it everyday.

Rice said she's battled depression and sees dealing with the abuse as a "lifelong challenge."

Duryea said, "The publicity is just so important. ... I was convinced that I was the only person that this could possibly be happening to."

Despite the emotional obstacles, these women are looking to move on with their lives. Bryan and Rice are back in school. Duryea is a college graduate who still plays basketball.

Shull, meanwhile, is a grad student in exercise and sports science. The 22-year-old says she has not yet been able to have an intimate romantic relationship.

"I still never had a first boyfriend or a first real kiss," she said.

'I Wish I Hadn't Been His Favorite'

Fourteen-year-old Becca Robinson of Brentwood, Tenn., has always enjoyed being active. Her parents couldn't help but notice their daughter's gymnastic potential. So, in 2000, Becca, then 10 years old, began to work with a coach named Mark Schiefelbein, who been hired by the Let It Shine gym and its owner, Tim Richards.

Schiefelbein moved Becca into his group of top gymnasts and raved about her skills to her parents.

"He would tell us how well Becca was doing and how much potential he thought she had. It's the stroke of your ego. 'Your daughter is special. She's in this elite group that I want to train,' " Becca's mom, Jill Robinson, said.

"Looking back, it was a setup for us," her father, Ross, said.

Meanwhile, Schiefelbein's boss was seeing things in his coaching that disturbed him, especially during an exercise known as "the frog stretch."

"His spotting techniques in stretch time we were very uncomfortable with," Richards said. "The girl would be down in a split and he would put his hands down her bottom and up underneath her legs and try to push down," he said.

When Schiefelbein ignored Richards' instructions to change his techniques and to follow the gym's rules, he fired him. Soon after, Schiefelbein set up his own gym, Esprit Gymnastics, and Becca followed him there.

Like Shull and the other young women, Schiefelbein "groomed" Becca with extra attention and compliments. Becca said, "He told me, 'You're my favorite.' ... Then he started treating me differently than all the other girls. He would bring me candy bars. And he'd be like, 'Don't show anybody this, it's your candy bar.' "

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