Over the weekend, in a post centered around my interview with Title X pioneer, former University of Texas women’s athletics director, and current consultant Donna Lopiano, I promised a fuller treatment of the group Safe4Athletes and its founder Katherine Starr. Here it is.
The Wisconsin-born, British-reared Starr swam for the United Kingdom Olympic team in 1984 and 1988 under her former name, Annabelle Cripps. She was also a Lady Longhorn on the Texas team at the same time as Kelley Davies (now Currin), who we now know had been molested in her young-teen years by her club coach in Washington, D.C., Rick Curl. USA Swimming, whose credibility in exposing and eradicating sex abuse by coaches couldn’t fill a 6-year-old girl’s swimming cap at this point, postponed until September 19 a disciplinary hearing for Curl, a prominent national-level coach and mentor to Olympians.
Starr herself descended into alcoholism and self-destructive behavior in the backwash of her own experience of being molested by an age-group coach. The story of how she more recently performed a courageous reboot of her life, and went on to start Safe4Athletes, was well told earlier this year by Christian Red of the New York Daily News. See http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-03-03/news/31120457_1_sexual-abuse-abuse-cases-bernie-fine.
At the Safe4Athletes website (http://safe4athletes.org/), you’ll find a lot of history and resources. The overview manifesto, “A Need for a National Effort,” is at http://safe4athletes.org/about-us/why-safe4athletes-is-needed.
Safe4Athletes’ proposed amendment to the Amateur Sports Act of 1979 can be
viewed at http://www.safe4athletes.org/blog/item/101-safe4athletes-appeal-for-change.
“Open amateur sports need a voice for the athletes,” Starr told me. “They also need an injection from the outside of ethics and morality.”
Naturally, I asked Starr what she knew about Kelley Davies and Rick Curl. The matter-of-factness of Katherine’s response was perhaps more chilling than any hysterics could be.
“I know now that four women on that team during my time that were abused by their youth coaches. It was speculated about Kelley and no one took investigative action to look into it,” Starr said.
“That is the main problem, there is gossip without action. Safe4Athletes want to change that dynamic and give a voice to the athlete that would start that process in place and require deliberate action to investigate and determine if it is fact or fiction. We owe that to every young athlete — to pursue the truth.”