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Former Olympic gymnast shares how she was mentally and sexually abused in sport

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Former Olympic gymnast shares how she was mentally and sexually abused in sport

In part two of the protecting children from harm in sport series you will hear the voice of Olympic gymnast Gloria Viseras, who courageously talks about her experiences as a young athlete in an environment where there were no safeguards in place.

It is only recently that adults have begun to listen to the voices of children and young people who have been abused in sport. For decades, survivors have lived with their experiences of all forms of violence with no one to turn to. Research is now unequivocal in showing that young people face significantly higher risks of all forms of violence the higher up the performance ladder they travel.

Gloria Viseras’ story
At three my parents took me to see gymnast Vera Cavslavska at the Mexico Olympic Games in 1968 and I fell in love with my sport.

Back in Madrid, I was eight years old when I started doing gymnastics and two years later our group got a new coach. At first, we found his little games of "seduction” very funny. He called us "Neniña" (“little girl” in Spanish) or "Gloriña" and made us feel very special. Then strange things started to happen.

He forbid us from doing something and waited to see if we obeyed. He humiliated us and waited to see if we told our parents. Then he began forbidding us to look at the boys with whom we had always shared the gym. We could not reply to a "good afternoon" from a boy our age with whom we had played hide and seek the day before. So we just looked down to the floor.

The sexual abuse did not start from one day to the next. It followed a period of intense psychological manipulation. I have always been obedient and disciplined and had an iron will to do everything as I was “supposed to” and to “be a good girl”. I became quiet, distant and an expert concealer and started feeling a constant blocking fear, shame and guilt. He chose me.

I trusted him blindly. The emotional bond was so strong that I did not do or even contemplate doing anything without thinking how he would react. And at 12 I was convinced that I was a bad, ungrateful person and a “dirty little whore” and if I told anyone they would all know what kind of a bad person I really was.

Gymnastics became for me something that I did eight hours a day but I did not even know why I did it anymore. From the moment I woke up, my only goal for the day was to be good for him.

He abused me from age 12 to 15 in the gym, in the car, at hotels, always in places where he had full uncontrolled access. Until one day when I was 15, I got to my father’s car in tears and my father went for him in the locker room. He did not let me go back. As Marilyn Monroe said, “It is easier to smile than to explain why I am so sad.”

Implementing the International Safeguards for Children in Sport is not only important, it is a must. Children must stop being a vehicle for adults (parents, coaches, club managers etc.) to accomplish their goals. We must also change the tendency in society, and therefore in sports organisations, of blaming the victims. This can only be achieved with public campaigns and requires years of hard work.

Don't miss part three of this series in the 139th e-Newsletter, which outlines how a Kenya-based S&D organisation is tackling the daily reality of rights-based discussions using local communication techniques to advocate and improve children’s rights.
 

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News

Author

Gloria Viseras

Published

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 09:00