In the Swirl of Newly Emerging Abuse Stories, Stop to Remember Sarah Burt — Again

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by Irvin Muchnick


As countless stories of deeply damaging, and mostly male, sexual misconduct unspool fashionably across all manner of industries and walks of life, I again urge those processing this new flood of news to remember victims of amateur sports coach abuse. It is one of the most easily and specifically addressed categories of the problem. Further, its victims — kids participating in extracurricular athletics — are among the least enfranchised and most vulnerable.

Take swimming, a focus of my now nearly six years of investigation.

And please, take another look at the story of Sarah Burt. My colleague Tim Joyce and I used Sarah as the lead anecdote of our 2014 article, “How the USA Swimming Sexual Abuse Scandals Became a Federal Case,”


“Sarah Burt was an outstanding student and competitive swimmer who loved teaching younger kids to swim. But on June 29, 2010, she drove her car to a busy intersection in rural Illinois, 20 minutes from Peoria. She parked, exited, and ended years of private torment by hurling herself in front of a semi-truck. Sarah was 16.”


Another treatment of Sarah’s story was published in 2011 in a local newspaper, the Woodford Times, at After her suicide, a school friend, “Liz,” came forward to the authorities and got a measure of justice in her own abuse scenario.

“Lots of kids and adults don’t speak out to the police,” her mother told the newspaper reporter. “Sarah wrote about the abuse in her journal. Someone read it and we became aware. She went to the police eventually.” But there was to be no prosecution in Sarah’s case.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick