Hilton Announces Sponsorship With USA Gymnastics Team
Former CEO and President of USA Gymnastics, Steve Penny

Since March of 2018, the American federation overseeing gymnastics, USA Gymnastics, has lost three leaders to resignation. The first one, Steve Penny, knowingly covered up allegations of sexual abuse by USA Gymnastics coaches. He was recently arrested. Kerry Perry was hired to bring calm to the brewing storm, and yet left USA Gymnastics for hiring a supporter of serial abuser, Dr. Larry Nasser. A month later, Mary Bono resigned as head of USA Gymnastics. One would think that after Penny and Perry, USA Gymnastics would be highly sensitive to the issues, and the reasons for the demise of the former heads, but they went and hired Bono, who lasted only four days.

USA Gymnastics. Tone Deaf.

USA Gymnastics Head, Steve Penny, Arrested for Evidence Tampering on October 17, 2018

Former CEO and president of USA Gymnastics, Steve Penny, was arrested for tampering of evidence in relation to the countless number of sexual abuse cases between coaches and gymnasts, apparently arranging for documents to be removed from the USA Gymnastics training venue at Karolyi Ranch in Walker County, Texas, and delivered to Penny. Authorities say the documents are still missing, and Penny had already been indicted for tampering on September 28.

It was also reported that Penny was aggressively attempting to build influence with the FBI office in Indianapolis, where USA Gymnastics is headquartered, by asking for advice from the FBI about how to position the scandal to the public, writing in an email to the FBI, “We need some cover.” The New York Times reported that Penny had talked to the head of the FBI field office in Indianapolis about a possible job as head of security of the USOC. While Penny had no authority in the hiring of that position, and that there may have been no direct conflict of interest, one could assume that the reason for Penny’s influencing activities was to curry favor with the FBI.

Mary Bono
Former CEO and President of USA Gymnastics, Mary Bono

USA Gymnastics Interim Head, Mary Bono, Resigns On October 16, 2018

Interim president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, Mary Bono, resigned after serving only four days. The selection of Bono, a trained gymnast who also served as a US congresswomen for 15 years after she filled the vacancy of her late husband, Sonny Bono, was criticized very quickly by top American gymnasts. Four-time Olympic gold medalist, Simone Biles noted in a tweet only one day after Bono’s hiring that Bono was one of the vocal protestors of the Nike ad featuring football quarterback and political activist, Colin Kaepernick. In fact, Bono, showed a picture of her covering up the Nike logo on her shoes. Biles tweeted in response:

*mouth drop* don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything

Biles’ teammate on the gold-medal winning US team from the Rio Olympics, Aly Raisman, was more direct in her criticism, attacking Bono’s connection to the law firm that advised USA Gymnastics regarding the sexual abuse allegations of the national team doctor, Larry Nassar. Nassar is now currently serving a prison term of 40 to 175 years. Raisman claimed in her tweet that the law firm Bono worked for, Faegre Baker Daniels, knew about the sexual abuse by Nassar for 13 months and did nothing.

My teammates & I reported Nassar’s abuse to USAG in 2015. We now know USOC & lawyers at Faegre Baker Daniels (Mary Bono’s firm) were also told then, yet Nassar continued to abuse children for 13 months!? Why hire someone associated with the firm that helped cover up our abuse?

Kerry Perry
Former CEO and President of USA Gymnastics, Kerry Perry

USA Gymnastics Head, Kerry Perry, Resigns September 4, 2018

After Penny resigned on March 16, 2018, USA Gymnastics hoped to turn a page on the leadership affiliated with the sex abuse scandals by hiring their first female leader in 20 years, Kerry Perry. Perry was an executive at a sports marketing company, Learfield Communications. Unfortunately, in the nine months as leader of USA Gymnastics she assumed leadership, Perry was criticized for not spending enough time at hearings of sexual abuse victims during the Larry Nassar trial, as well as her ability to make changes to the USA Gymnastics organization. One of the few changes she made was met with immediate protest – the hiring of gymnastics coach, Mary Lee Tracy, a person initially defended Nassar publicly. Tracy, who called Nassar “amazing,” was fired only a few days after being hired.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, who was the ranking member of the Senate subcommittee overseeing the USOC, said this about Perry’s tenure.

Throughout her disastrous nine-month tenure as president of U.S.A. Gymnastics, Perry demonstrated nothing but a willful and heartless blindness to the concerns of survivors who were abused by Larry Nassar. As president, Perry perpetuated U.S.A.G.’s complicity with Nassar’s horrific actions with her stunning and utterly shameful appearance before Congress in July and utterly misguided hiring of Mary Lee Tracy as the organization’s new elite development coordinator.

USA Gymnastics Head, Steve Penny, Resigns March 16, 2018

Only three months after the end of the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the impressive victory of the Final Five, the USA women’ gymnastics team that won gold, the gymnastics world was rocked by allegations of sexual abuse, and that USA Gymnastics had covered up the abuse over decades. The Indianapolis Star revealed over 50 accounts of sexual abuse of children under the care of USA Gymnastics coaches, allegations that eventually led to the resignation of Penny.

To understand the culture of sexual abuse and cover up within USA Gymnastics, here are a series of articles I wrote over the past two years.

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sexual-abuse-of-underaged

Thanks to The Indianapolis Star, we now know that leaders in USA Gymnastics, the governing body for gymnastics in America, were aware of coaches who sexually abused female gymnasts over the past two decades at least, many of whom were under-aged. We also know that USA Gymnastics did little to prevent further abuse unless a parent or the police pushed them to act.

According to The Indianapolis Star, USA Gymnastics have detailed and sometimes voluminous documentation on coaches accused of sexual abuse, but those documents have not yet been disclosed by USA Gymnastics. We know about these cases today primarily because the journalists of the Indy Star went through police and court records, uncovering details of the cases. They also learned about a so-called policy that provided the rationale for USA Gymnastics officials not to take any action despite knowledge of the abuse.

Current USA Gymnastics president, Steve Penny, in a court deposition said “to the best of my knowledge, there’s no duty to report if you are…if you are a third party to some allegation.” Penny’s predecessor, Robert Colarossi, stated that a reason not to report abuse to the police was “concern about potential damage to a coach’s reputation if an allegation proved false,” and that he “inherited an executive policy of dismissing complaints as ‘hearsay’ unless they were signed by a victim or victim’s parent – a policy that experts said could deter people from reporting abuse. It’s not clear exactly when that policy was created or by whom.”

child-abuse-stats

The Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence is a nonprofit organization that focuses on scientifically research-based explanations for mental health issues. In one of their articles, entitled “Eight Common Myths About Child Sexual Abuse“, the Leadership Council gives insight into why many of us allow sexual abuse to continue.

Few people are aware of the true state of the science on child abuse. Instead, most people’s beliefs have been shaped by common misconceptions and popular myths about this hidden crime. Societal acceptance of these myths assists sex offenders by silencing victims and encouraging public denial about the true nature of sexual assaults against children. The Leadership Council prepared this analysis because we believe that society as a whole benefits when the public has access to accurate information regarding child abuse and other forms of interpersonal violence.

Here is the list of myths:

  • Myth 1:  Normal-appearing, well educated, middle-class people don’t molest children.
  • Myth 2:  People are too quick to believe an abuser is guilty, even if there is no supporting evidence.
  • Myth 3:  Child molesters molest indiscriminately.
  • Myth 4:  Children who are being abused would immediately tell their parents.
  • Myth 5:  Children who are being abused will show physical evidence of abuse.
  • Myth 6:  Hundreds of innocent men and women have been falsely accused and sent to prison for molesting children.
  • Myth 7:  If asked about abuse, children tend to exaggerate and are prone to making false accusations.
  • Myth 8:  By using repeated interviews, therapists or police can easily implant false memories and cause false accusations among children of any age.

I could only presume, but if we consider the leaders of USA Gymnastics to be of normal mental health, then they too accept many of the myths above as fact. In many cases, I’m sure they took the word of the coach’s over the children.

  • “Where’s the proof?”
  • “These are normal-appearing, well-educated men. Can’t be true.”
  • “If a child was really being abused, she would definitely have told her parents.”
  • “And what would happen if we falsely accused a coach? Oh, the shame.”

Yes. Oh, the shame.

 

For facts and more myths on child abuse in America, see The National Child Traumatic Stress Network Fact sheet.

The Silent Shame Part 1: USA Gymnastics Ignored Sexual Abuse Allegations

The Silent Shame Part 3: New Sexual Abuse Allegations for USA Gymnastics