Abuse in Gymnastics and Ballet

Kate Hall
Kate Hall
Senior Paralegal, Abuse

Competitive sports such as gymnastics can involve tough training regimes, which can sadly mean that signs of abuse can go unnoticed, and many victims can be reluctant to speak out as they’re worried about it affecting their career prospects.

As many gymnasts start the sport at such a young age, this can also mean that some victims are too young to understand the nature of what’s happening to them and fearful of letting their parents down, especially if their parents are putting extra pressure on them to perform.

This has caused many signs and symptoms of sports abuse to have become normalised in sports like gymnastics, which are physically very demanding and notoriously competitive. But it’s important that we change this culture so we can protect anyone who is suffering from abuse.

Signs of Abuse in Sport

Sport abuse can take many shapes and forms - it can be a one-off instance or can be prolonged over several years or even decades.

Some examples of abuse include:

      • Bullying and intimidation
      • Physical assault
      • Pressure to carry on training despite complaints of pain
      • Abusive coaching techniques
      • Harmful weight management techniques, linked to the development of eating disorders, body dysmorphia and unhealthy relationships with food
      • Sexual assault

Victims can feel intimidated by their coaches and their position of power, especially if they’re well-known or respected in the field.

Here are two recent examples of sports abuse in the news:

British Gymnasts Take Legal Action over Abuse

Hoping to change the future of coaching in gymnastics are 17 current and former gymnasts. The women and girls, aged between 15 and 43, are taking legal action against governing body British Gymnastics over allegations of physical and psychological abuse.

The victims were aged between 6 and 23 at the time of the alleged abuse, and nearly all of them have struggled with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as a result of their abuse.

They’re calling for better safeguarding and transparency, and are hoping that the outcome ‘ensures the safety of future generations.’

The investigation into the abuse allegations is still ongoing.

Former Ballet Dancer Guilty of Sex Offences

Yat-Sen Chang was found guilty of sexually assaulting girls and women at the English National Ballet and Young Dancers Academy in London between 2009 and 2016. Chang used his position as a ‘famous and revered’ ballet dancer to take advantage of students in his care.

The victims, aged between 16 and 18 at the time, said that Chang would touch them inappropriately during massages.

The Court heard how Chang ‘trusted that his fame and his position would protect him from complaint, or from consequences of his actions.’

The 49-year-old has been convicted of 12 counts of sexual assault and one count of assault by penetration.

“Justice that we will fight for”

Both these cases show that there is still more to be done to prevent abuse in gymnastics and competitive sports.

Our Abuse Solicitors have seen the devastating effects that sports abuse can have on victims, who often feel trapped and unable to speak out because they’re worried about losing their career or a sport that they love.

We hope that as more victims come forward, changes will be made to the training processes in competitive sport to protect others from being abused in the future.

As Olympic gymnast Jennifer Pinches says, “This is just the beginning of the sweeping changes that we are demanding, and the justice that we will fight for.”

If you’d like confidential legal advice about abuse, get in touch with our empathetic and supportive team today.

For free legal advice call our Abuse Claims Solicitors

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