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.
— “How the USA Swimming Sexual Abuse Scandals Became a Federal Case,” Concussion Inc., October 7, 2014
Many of our readers have come across the story of the suicide a week ago today of figure skating pairs champion John Coughlin, who was despondent after being placed on interim suspension by the U.S. Center for SafeSport during investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct by him against minors.
USA Today’s update of the procedural status of this matter is at https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2019/01/24/skater-john-coughlin-death-investigation-must-continue/2671338002/.
It is a moment to give some space to Coughlin’s mourning family. It is also a time to reflect anew on the reality that sexual abuse, and its adjudication, is a contact sport. Indeed, it is a war zone. As with battlefield casualties, abuse fallout reverberates across time, across generations, in substance abuse, eating disorders, and perpetuated cycles of abuse toward partners and children. There is no single headline that can capture the human and public health toll, since almost the entire cost, or certainly most of it, is underground.
Out of the current focus of attention on the suicide of an accused victimizer, we are reprinting our coverage of the suicide of Sarah Burt, whose allegations of sexual abuse by her coach in Peoria, Illinois, were never heard. Below are headline links from, respectively, 2012, 2017, and 2018.