Drag abuse into the light

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column-rick olivaresSOME five years to the day where the Penn State child-abuse sex scandal broke, severely tarnishing an image and legacies, a similar one was damningly divulged. Across the oceans in England, retired professional footballer Andy Woodward, who played for Crewe, Bury and Sheffield United, admitted to being abused as a youth player.

After Woodward’s admission, other former pros—former England and Tottenham midfielder Paul Stewart, and Manchester City striker David White—have also come clean with their own stories of abuse from the youth system.

The British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) reported on December 15 that Metropolitan Police (of London) have received 106 allegations against 30 clubs, four of which are in the Premier League. Even as investigations are now being undertaken also by 21 other police forces, when the full extent of this crime and complicity is revealed, the fallout and the repercussions will be even bigger.

It isn’t only England that is reeling from these sexual-abuse reports. Back in the United States, gymnastics is dealing with its own troubles as close to 400 gymnasts have made allegations about abuse over the past 20 years. This actually spilled over into the most recent Summer Olympics in Rio, where this scandal threatened to take the shine away from the American gymnast’s golden feats.

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Here at home in the Philippines, a little over a year ago, a coach of a big college program was removed for having sexual relations with his players. Man, you entrust your kids to this person? The fact that the school didn’t file a case or even denounced this means they are complicit. Better to keep quiet because it might hurt our image and our recruiting, they must have surmised in the wake of their silence.

As a father of a student-athlete, we place great trust in our child’s coaches to take care of them, not take advantage of them.

Yet, if it isn’t sexual abuse, it is physical or verbal abuse. Sometimes even a combination.

Several years ago I wrote a blind item how this coach of a University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) college football team several years ago introduced a form of hazing, where seniors would beat up erring rookies. If the seniors refused to put the hurt on the froshes, the coaches would beat them up instead. The players who admitted to me the bullying and abuse refused to go on record for fear of reprisals from their coaches.

I heard that was the system they learned when these coaches—brothers—were at another college in another league. Hopefully, that evil they brought over to their school (they are now out) has been stamped out.

That physical beating used to happen in this high-school basketball team that has been a power in recent years, with many of its alumni now playing for big programs. After losses, the players would be asked to form a line where they would receive their “punishment” one after the other. Incredible!

Some players transferred schools as a result. A few stopped playing the game because it was no longer fun. Yet, for those whose parents who see their kids as meal tickets, they have no choice but to continue. Even more amazingly, the parents also refused to file cases or even publicly air their grievances as they were afraid.

In the case of the college football players, their parents were in the provinces and totally unaware of what was transpiring. The basketball team? The parents knew of it but chose to keep quiet.

The silence allows these people to get away with their bullying and abuse. They will hide behind what—institutions? In this day and age of slow and blind justice, social media and the Internet can be the great equalizer.

That is why I am glad that, slowly, these reports are surfacing even if they are coming all the way from England and the United States. No doubt, it isn’t an easy decision. The risk of telling your story in front of a global audience means exposing one’s self to risk. However, at the end of the day, it is the right thing to do. And it always starts with the courage of one for the monsters to be dragged into the light kicking and screaming.

Then we stamp them out.