I’ve Been Inside the SafeSport Process
In October 2018 my fiancé and I received a text at 6:00 am from a friend asking if we were okay and if we needed any help. Huh? I was trying to decide how much coffee to make that morning! I texted her back and asked was this meant for us. She told me to check SafeSport and without even going any further I knew exactly what had happened — a vindictive person from my fiancé’s recent past had made some sort of accusation against him.
We checked “the list” and there it was, his name on the BANNED list. Not interim, BANNED.
As it turned out, this vindictive person had submitted some documents from their recent legal case and SafeSport simply banned my fiancé. Never contacted him, never considered that other party might have a vindictive agenda. We were fortunate to have the resources to begin to fight this, and that very morning we retained counsel. Our counsel submitted that exact argument to SafeSport, and within 24 hours he was removed from the list. The attitude was very much “oh sorry our bad but you’re off the list so no harm no foul.”
Not exactly our attitude but carry on, I guess – and hope not too many people had seen his name.
That was not enough for the other party so she submitted an additional allegation, an allegation that SHE submitted to the court, and this time he was placed on an interim list and for MONTHS SafeSport dragged us along, saying they had “evidence” but yet refused to produce it despite repeated attempts from our attorney. They would not answer our questions, return our attorneys phone calls, and generally provided no insight into their “investigation”. It is our belief that no such evidence ever existed — but SafeSport seemed to want him to be guilty.
Our own attorney did far more investigating than we believe SafeSport did. Our attorney even contacted the other persons ‘attorneys (whom, by the way, were NEVER contacted by SafeSport) and they told her that there was never any evidence, and a judge IN A REAL COURT, actually dismissed the statement as without merit.
Finally, one day without warning, SafeSport simply dropped the entire case against Us. We would like to believe it was because there was never any merit to it in the first place. Regardless of their reasons, we are just glad its over.
But the damage had been done.
Before the naysayers start talking about the same feelings the victims must feel- I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND THAT. I have personal friends who have suffered both physical and sexual abuse and they absolutely deserve to be heard and believed. But there is a way to conduct these investigations that protect both victims AND the wrongfully accused.
It pains me deeply to admit we struggled with depression over those months and even contemplated suicide. In fact, he actually called the hotline one night and then changed his mind and hung up on them. Well, as it turns out, if you call the suicide hotline and hang up on them, the cops show up at your house and you get a police-escorted trip to the hospital for 24 hours of observation whether you want to go or not.
SafeSport has a valid mission. But there are many ways it can be improved to protect victims without taking away some basic rights of the accused. The pendulum has swung way too far to the other side. Let’s get it back to a fair system for all.
Through our situation we kept this as quiet as we could for months because it was deeply painful. However, we are speaking up now because we felt it was important to add to the discussion on this topic in the hope that if it helps reform the SafeSport, then it will be worth the microscope we know we are about to place ourselves under.
I don’t think there is anyone out there who doesn’t think kids should be protected and that victims should have a safe place to report their story. That is irrefutable: My fiancé and I both have daughters and without question we support the need for something like SafeSport. It is the current process that is very flawed and without question lets bitter and vindictive people abuse the system AND dilutes the ability of the SafeSport team to address valid situations.
A review of SafeSport’s inadequate system is long overdue. Athletes for Equity in Sport is here to help facilitate that discussion and bring about positive change in the SafeSport process. Please read our ongoing updates and join Athletes for Equity in Sport at:
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Athletes of Equity in Sport, Inc.
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