For most of the last six months I’ve been reporting on sex abuse at USA Swimming, which I analogized in the ebook title PENN STATE IN THE POOL.
But if there’s one lesson from the decades-old case of now banned rapist coach Rick Curl, combined with the new lawsuit by swimming benefactor Dia Rianda against long-time Olympic head coach Mark Schubert, it is that the crimes in our national youth swimming organization are actually much broader and deeper, and have persisted much longer, than those at one of the nation’s most beloved college football programs.
To assert the above is not to downplay the serial molestations Jerry Sandusky inflicted on many at-risk boys through his charitable foundation in Pennsylvania, or the courage those victims ultimately exhibited in finding a measure of justice.
But the scope and scale of USA Swimming’s abuse of kids and the public trust simply drown the cover-up at Penn State. Rick Curl and other direct perpetrators of child rape only head a list which also includes Colorado Springs-based white-collar criminals. All of them belong behind bars for what they have done.
Why have swimming’s corruption and horrors so far failed to resonate like Penn State’s? There are several reasons. For starters, college football is much more popular than youth swimming. There is, however, a more global explanation, and we dare not speak its name. But I will:
Rapes of boys by men — indeed, homosexual acts of all kinds — are widely considered “gross.”
Rapes of girls by coaches, on the other hand, are widely regarded as “normal.”
In an effort to cut through the gender and sexual biases through which we inaccurately interpret deviance and abuse of power, I propose that we all think of what has happened for a generation at USA Swimming, and what continues to happen, in a different way.
Let’s suppose Jerry Sandusky’s victims had been not boys from broken homes, but rather girls he coached. Let’s further suppose that the people enabling, denying, and failing to report his actions were not university administrators at a remove from Sandusky, but rather the officials directly responsible — via the U.S. Olympic Committee and an act of Congress — for overseeing all of Sandusky’s 12,000 colleagues, as well the 300,000 children they supervised for hundreds or thousands of hours a year.
Unconscionable risk. Irreparable harm.
That is why the incontrovertible evidence of systemic sex abuse at USA Swimming matters. That is why those of us on the trail of exposing and accounting for it will not stop.