Last week, Rick Curl was sentenced to prison for raping a young girl, Kellie Currin, beginning in 1983. The sentence was a resolution of at least one part of the most high profile sexual abuser in swimming who had long escaped justice. The scales have begun to tip, ever so slightly, and coaches are being held accountable for their actions. The case also reveals, however, how far the swimming community has yet to go. When justice was finally served, it seemed that there were very few, if any, people willing to stand with a rape victim, while many were there to support the rapist. This is our village, and I'm embarrassed to be in it.
When 72 people submit letters of support for a rapist, and a courtroom is packed with supporters of that rapist for his sentencing, I am reminded that change in swimming will come far more slowly than I would like. The tacit forgiveness, if not support, of sexual misconduct with children is institutionalized within our sport. At first, it's hard for me to think about how all those people rationalized to themselves standing with a rapist, until those rationalizations quickly appeared in the form of anonymous internet comments (paraphrasing):
"She made the first move"
"It was consensual"
"It was just one incident, otherwise he's had such a huge positive impact"
"She's out for money"
"Shame on her parents for taking the hush money"
Think those over for a moment, if you really have to. Does anyone in their right mind in our society believe that a 13 year old can "make the first move" or consent to a sexual relationship with a 30+ year old man? Beyond the fact that he repeatedly raped her over years, do we really believe anyone should get a one time pass on rape? Has anyone put themselves in the shoes of a woman who had to dredge up the most traumatic period of her entire life, endure comments like the one above, and feel that she had an entire community (that she was once a part of) against her when judgment was handed down?
Onto the last, one of the most frequent tropes of anonymous commenters who apparently enjoy trolling rape victims has been criticism of Currin's parents. Lets remember to put ourselves in the time when this took place. Everyone knew about it and did nothing. Was it really possible in that climate to "win" anything more than the settlement her parents got? Currin and her parents told many powerful people, and yet none of them seems to have even lifted a finger to this day to do anything about it. Why should they then have felt like they were going to get justice any other way?
USA Swimming, in all it's wisdom, is still 100% on the defensive, because really at this point they have no other way to go and continue to exist. Never mind that they would like all their members to believe that it took them over a year to "locate" a person in our modern era. It's sad that "don't expect very much from us" is still the best defense USA Swimming has to offer.
Likewise, ASCA, the esteemed coaching body of the US, still celebrates the career of a rapist on their photo album.
Earlier this year in Steubenville, Ohio, a community rallied against power unchecked and how that power had been used to cover up the rape of a young woman in their community. I am still waiting for the good people in swimming at large to rise up in defense of the victims instead of working to protect those who have victimized.