Alleged Sex Abuse Victims Call on USA Swimming to Work With Them to Protect Kids

Alleged Sex Abuse Victims Call on USA Swimming to Work With Them to Protect Kids

On the heels of USA Swimming's announcement that it is considering new child protection safeguards for the sport of swimming, alleged sex abuse victims and parents say they have yet to hear from USA Swimming directly.

"They should be at the club. They should be supporting the investigation with the police. They should be talking to the kids," said Chuck Thompson, the father of a teen swimmer molested by now imprisoned San Jose swim coach Andy King. "They are the governing body for hundreds of swim clubs. They are the leadership of these clubs. They should take the responsibility to drive the policies that protect the kids. I don't see that happening."

An ABC News "20/20" report last week examined how King moved from club to club on the West Coast, abusing more than a dozen teen female swimmers over three decades.

WATCH PART 1 of the 20/20 investigation.

WATCH PART 2 of the 20/20 investigation.

In an email on Sunday, USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus told member coaches that he was "extremely sorry" if the organization had not done enough to protect kids, but many of the individual victims say they have yet to hear from Weilgus directly.

Weilgus also announced the organization would establish an anonymous hotline for victims to report abuse, and said the organization was "continually studying" what other youth organizations were doing to address the problem of child sexual abuse.

Former swimmers who say they were abused by King as teens called the anonymous hotline a "good start," but also raised concerns that USA Swimming was not acting swiftly and aggressively enough to address the failures exposed by the King case.

Debra Denithorne, who was coached by King in the 1980s, said she would like to see USA Swimming mandate yearly training for athletes, coaches and officials to help them recognize inappropriate behavior.

"I think the primary focus should be education," said Denithorne, who told 20/20 that she had been sexually abused by King for years starting at age 11. "It's so important to empower young athletes with a vocabulary and a dialogue to be able to label what's happening, and to be able to say 'no, it's not okay' when it's actually happening."

Gretchen Dahla Ash, a swimmer who said she was harassed and molested by King in the 1980s, said she wanted to see USA Swimming take more responsibility for screening its member coaches.

"They need to set some funds aside to do more thorough background checks," said Ash, who now works as a crime prevention officer for a local police department. "Coaches and parents at these local club boards aren't going to know where to go and what questions to ask."

Local Swim Club Asks USA Swimming to Improve Background Screenings

King's last employer, San Jose Aquatics, said in a statement that it had "conducted reference checks on King with former coaches, colleagues, supervisors, and parents prior to hiring him." A spokeswoman said the club "encouraged USA swimming to adopt more rigorous policies" for background screening and handling of complaints.

The spokeswoman also said that the club had formalized a "buddy policy" requiring all swimmers to have another person present while alone with a coach, club employee or volunteer, after the revelation that a teen swimmer had been repeatedly molested inside a shed housed at the high school where the club trained.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3

null
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...