Three years ago, my daughter came through an incredibly destructive and very public grooming situation perpetrated by her coach of four years. Our family had to work through how to help her navigate recovery, public misconceptions about grooming and power imbalance situations in sports, law enforcement, counseling resources, and SafeSport. There was so much we didn't know or understand about any of these processes. In the past few years, after speaking with hundreds of athletes who have experienced sexual abuse while participating in their sport, it has become apparent that we aren’t alone; nobody fully understands all of the challenges presented and processes involved with recovery and reporting as it pertains to sexual abuse. There are emotional, physical, mental, and legal issues, as well as the aftereffects on the families of both the victims and assailants. The one consistent takeaway is that there is no direct path to recovery. Everyone is different. What is clear is that we lack a straightforward direction of how to understand and navigate the systems, the resources, and the fallout.
The goal for this section of our website is to help build that understanding for people so that it is easier to move forward. The #WeRideTogether Blog is intended to become a repository of information where someone who is coming through a sexual abuse situation can read and explore to better understand all the systems at play, as well as a source of news and expert opinion. Survivors and their families need help understanding how evidence works, how law enforcement investigations and timelines come into play, how SafeSport operates, what healing looks like for different people and families, what counseling resources are available, and the laws around mandatory reporting by doctors and counselors when dealing with a minor.
My family had zero knowledge about these systems before going through all of the aforementioned processes. We didn't understand how much tangible evidence is necessary in law enforcement. The prosecutorial process is evidence based, and sexual abuse rarely leaves physical evidence. The systems are not set up to protect victims. The first thing one of our victim's advocates told me was to set my expectations low since law enforcement can take years to prosecute, and the timeline and process protects the assailant substantially more than the victim. I didn't realize that we would not be able to get my daughter (or any of our family members) one-on-one counseling or support from our family doctor because counselors and doctors are mandatory reporters to law enforcement in sexual abuse situations of minors. My daughter wasn't ready for the brutal law enforcement process until she had spent time recovering and developed a better understanding of what had happened to her. Yet, we couldn't get her the help she needed because it would have been reported before she was ready. I didn't know where to turn for any of it and because sexual abuse is such an uncomfortable topic with so much stigma attached to it, there really wasn't anyone to ask.
My family would have greatly benefitted from a comfortable, easy resource where we could learn and better understand the subject; the fallout, the processes, and the support necessary for recovery. My hope is that the #WeRideTogether Blog can serve as this resource for others by having easily accessible, straight forward, conversational knowledge that is written by or comes from professionals in all of the areas that affect survivors and their families coming through these situations. The following content in this blog will represent the voices of counselors, prosecutorial law enforcement professionals, attorneys, SafeSport investigators, public health professionals, child protection specialists, victims advocates, parents, survivors, and experts in all the areas that victims and their loved ones need help understanding.
President and Founder of #WeRideTogether