Guest Column: A Swim Coach Rape Victim’s Mother Calls Out Her Local YMCA

Program Note
February 27, 2014
EXCLUSIVE: USA Swimming’s Safe Sport Director and Assistant Failed to Act on 2012-13 Complaints About Abusive Coach Alex Pussieldi From a Florida Parent Volunteer
February 28, 2014

The following, reprinted with permission, is the text of a letter to the board of directors of a local YMCA. We have removed names and other identifying features.


In 2011 I reported to the YMCA directors that our daughter had been sexually molested and raped by her swim coach there.  She was barely 13 years old at the time of the abuse. She is now 19.

The Y suspended the coach to undergo its own investigation. Your institution has a copy of the statement our daughter gave to the police detective.

After pressure from our family, your institution let the coach go. I did not expect the Y to support us, because sexual abuse is a hard topic to face. However, because of lack of leadership from the top, the families turned on us. Teammates called my daughter a slut and a liar. Tweets were posted saying that the national team didn’t want to talk to her and that nobody believed her anyway. A petition circulated at a team event saying that the coach was falsely accused. This was signed by many team parents and swimmers.

When my daughter originally approached one of the other coaches, who is also a high school coach, and told her what happened, the reply was “That doesn’t sound like him.” What happened to mandated reporting? Another Y official told the police that my daughter had a tendency to be dramatic.

I am aware of the coach’s lawsuit, and have been told that the Y took down the banners celebrating our previous financial donations. Also, all employees and coaches were instructed not to communicate with us at all. We had been Y members for 25 years. My daughter was a member from the day she was born. Two former victims that contacted my daughter said they would never come forward in this victim-blaming environment. Your Y is protecting itself against lawsuits and slamming the door on victims abused at your institution. How’s that for a Y whose mission is to provide a safe haven for youth?

The facts are these: The coach ran your swim team for more than 30 years. In his tenure he had multiple private meetings with his swimmers, all minors. Until five years ago, no one was overseeing him. God knows what went on in his early years. During our tenure at the Y, several young women and one young man abruptly the Y; all were good swimmers at the top of their game. Disclosure of sexual abuse is extremely shameful and embarrassing to the victim. It is not surprising and not unprecedented that former victims would rather hide than face their tormentor.

A horrible thing happened to our daughter.  I felt it was my responsibility to report it so he was not free to abuse anybody else. The Y did the right thing, but their process produced a scapegoat. There has been nothing in this for our daughter but shame and isolation.  She lost her sport and her swimming community. That she did this for attention, which was the charge of her former teammates, is ludicrous. Any youth that competes and trains at that level has complete confidence and trust in their coach. The coach abused that relationship.

In addition, our daughter was a part-time employee of the YMCA. The YMCA did not protect her from a predator, and they neglected her as an employee. After this allegation, her former employer never contacted her to see how she was.  Where is the youth support the Y so boldly advertises? As board members, you can pat yourself on the back for your mission, but when you walk down the halls and see all those pictures of smiling children, know that there are several, maybe more, adults who were victims at your institution.

This is the tip of the iceberg. USA Swimming is facing many lawsuits, and Congress has begun an investigation. Sexual abuse is rampant in elite swimming and USA Swimming has covered it up. Parents are quiet as long as their kids are swimming fast.

Comments are closed.

Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick