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Human Rights Report Unearths Sexual, Physical And Psychological Abuse Within Australian Gymnastics

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Human Rights Report Unearths Sexual, Physical And Psychological Abuse Within Australian Gymnastics

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has conducted an investigation into gymnastics in this country and the results are truly horrifying.

An independent report, headed up by sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins, has now been released detailing the sexual, physical and psychological abuse Aussie gymnasts have suffered throughout recent decades.

And on top of that, the damning findings also exposed the extreme methods Gymnastics Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) went to in order to cover up the alleged abuse.

The review also included first-person statements from the victims themselves, detailing the horrors they endured while competing in the sport they loved.

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Incredibly, the Commission received a whopping 138 written accounts from past and present gymnasts as well as their family members with issues of creating the "ideal body" and "winning at all costs" leading to much of the abuse.

From body shaming young girls to tales of sexual and even physical abuse, the report paints a bleak picture of the inherent issues embedded deep into the fibres of one of Australia's most popular sports.

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"The abuse and harm experienced by members of the gymnastics community in Australia over many decades is significant and has had deeply felt and long-lasting impacts," the AHRC said.

"The Commission recommends that a formal apology and acknowledgment be provided to members of the community who suffered physical, emotional, sexual, verbal and psychological abuse as a result of the actions and inactions of other members of the gymnastics community in Australia.

"The Commission recommends that Gymnastics Australia be responsible for delivering this apology, and encourages institutions who have run gymnastics programs over the previous four decades to consider issuing their own apology."

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Following huge backlash after the report's release, it wasn't long before Gymnastics Australia released a statement of their own.

"Gymnastics Australia unreservedly apologises to all athletes and family members who have experienced any form of abuse participating in the sport," the sport's governing body said.

"We also thank the athletes and other community members who engaged in the review process and acknowledge their bravery in doing so.

"The report is confronting, identifying systemic issues that affect athlete experience and wellbeing at all levels of the sport including a focus on 'winning-at-all-costs', silencing of the athlete voice, an unhealthy focus on the 'ideal body', particularly for young female athletes, and an acceptance of archaic and authoritarian coaching practises.

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"The report also references experiences from members of the gymnastics community of abuse that are deeply concerning."

GRAPHIC WARNING: Below are some of the accounts from the victims...

One gymnast claimed she was sexually abused by a massage therapist, saying: "The abuse occurred over a period of time around the age of 8-9 years old. Abuse, sex and advocacy were completely foreign to me at this time. This man abused me in various ways, often with my Mum in the room. I would lie face down on the massage table with tears streaming down my face in silence. I remember it being incredibly painful, but I did not want to complain."

While another went into detail about how common body shaming was, claiming: "The first time I was called fat at the AIS, I was 11 years old and weighed 22 kilograms. There was another girl in my group who was called fat at nine years old when she weighed 18 kilograms. It goes to show that it really didn't matter what we looked like or how little we weighed, we were called fat regardless."

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Another awful account from an anonymous victim said: "I have also had the experience of my coach displaying unwanted affection, such as thigh grabbing and often times when we were being stretched in the gym he would have an erection, which I would feel him pushing repetitively on my hips or back while grunting and sighing. He would often stretch me for much longer than the other girls."

Physical abuse was also a regular occurrence with one gymnast saying: "When they stretched us, the rules were, you know, if you cried the stretching would last longer and it would be more painful. I had a grown adult sit on my kneecaps while my heels were placed on an object 30-50 cm tall, for minutes at a time on a daily basis. The coach stretched me to the point I wanted to die."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: olympics, olympic games, Investigation, Australia, Abuse

Max Sherry
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