“I will never like being touched or physically embraced by others,” a former child gymnast says. “Something that should be a joy, enjoyed and cherished in life, will always be a struggle for me.” A massive investigation by the Indianapolis Star, encompassing nine months and hundreds of police and court documents, has resulted in a clearer picture of the scope of sexual abuse of young gymnasts around the country: 368 gymnasts alleged sexual abuse at the hands of coaches, gym owners, and others over the past 20 years. That's an incident every 20 days. And the actual number is likely higher. “I’m sad for all the parents and athletes who didn’t have the kind of warning that that number gives you," the CEO of advocacy group CHILD USA says.
The Star's investigation revealed that coaches took nude photos, molested, and in some cases had near daily sex with girls as young as 6. USA Gymnastics was found to have ignored many sexual abuse allegations from its athletes. Coaches fired by multiple gyms—often quietly to protect the gyms themselves—were allowed to move on to coach elsewhere, keeping their membership in USA Gymnastics. One coach was booted from six gyms in four states, yet prospective employees still thought he had a clean record. USA Gymnastics' coach of the year in 2009 was allowed to coach an international competition while being investigated for sexual abuse. Yet USA Gymnastics says it is "proud of the work it has done to address and guard against child sexual abuse." Read more from the investigation here. (Read more child sex abuse stories.)