Aussie gymnastics hell: Horrific findings from report

Australian sporting bodies accused of turning a blind eye to the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of young, mostly female gymnasts have been told it is time they admitted to their shameful failings to protect their victims.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has called on Gymnastics Australia, and other major sporting bodies that ran gymnastics programs, to offer a formal apology to everyone who suffered abuse.

"The abuse and harm experienced by members of the gymnastics community in Australia over many decades is significant and has had deeply felt and long-lasting impacts," the AHRC said.

"The Commission recommends that a formal apology and acknowledgment be provided to members of the community who suffered physical, emotional, sexual, verbal and psychological abuse as a result of the actions and inactions of other members of the gymnastics community in Australia.

"The Commission recommends that Gymnastics Australia be responsible for delivering this apology, and encourages institutions who have run gymnastics programs over the previous four decades to consider issuing their own apology."

 

The AHRC has called on Gymnastics Australia to apologise to survivors of abuse. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins
The AHRC has called on Gymnastics Australia to apologise to survivors of abuse. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins

 

This is likely to include the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), which was accused of ignoring complaints of abuse dating back over decades.

Some of the allegations are included in the AHRC's scathing review into gymnastics in Australia, which was released on Monday.

The Commission conducted 47 interviews with 57 participants, including current and former athletes, their families, staff, coaches, and other relevant personnel.

The review also received 138 written submissions, and includes shocking claims of sexual, physical and emotional abuse and the impact it had on its victims.

"We know people that have like attempted suicide, people that harm themselves, people that are bulimic, anorexic, because of this," one witness told the review.

 

 

"People have been admitted to hospital, been involved with the police, developed psychosis."

Another victim claimed how she was sexually abused by a massage therapist who was treating her for a gymnastics injury.

"The abuse occurred over a period of time around the age of 8-9 years old. Abuse, sex and advocacy were completely foreign to me at this time. This man abused me in various ways, often with my Mum in the room.

"I would lie face down on the massage table with tears streaming down my face in silence. I remember it being incredibly painful, but I did not want to complain."

Another victim spoke about the practice of body shaming.

"The first time I was called fat at the AIS, I was 11 years old and weighed 22 kilograms," she said.

"There was another girl in my group who was called fat at nine years old when she weighed 18 kilograms. It goes to show that it really didn't matter what we looked like or how little we weighed, we were called fat regardless.'

The 110-page review made five main findings and a dozen key recommendations.

 

 

In addition to a formal apology, the list of recommendations included a proposal that all matters regarding child abuse and neglect, misconduct, bullying, sexual harassment, and assault be investigated externally of the sport.

"Members of the community shared experiences of abuse, misconduct and bullying, but they also shared stories of hope and of their love for the sport," Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said.

 

Originally published as Aussie gymnastics hell: Horrific findings from report



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