British Gymnastics have received a Letter before Action as a group of 17 women and girls are to start legal action over alleged physical and psychological abuse. The group consists of current and ex-gymnasts aged between 14 and 43 who complain about the conduct of coaches and people employed by clubs across the United Kingdom.
Allegations of the physical and psychological abuse consists of:
Inappropriate use of physical force
A “cavalier” attitude to injury and/or complaints of pain and pressure on gymnasts to continue to train while injured
Failure of coaches to properly supervise physically demanding and potentially dangerous disciplines
Abusive and harmful coaching techniques – being punched, kicked, slapped or held by the ears
“Body shaming” – Weight management techniques alleged to have caused eating disorders, body dysmorphia and unhealthy relationships with food
Bullying and intimidating behaviour
The action is led by London 2012 Olympic gymnast, Jennifer Pinches, who has reported:
‘For too long we have seen British Gymnasts prioritise podiums over people which has led to untold damage to the lives of so many people. It is a heart-breaking truth to face, knowing the level of abuse that we and so many others were subjected to. This is just the beginning of the sweeping changes that we are demanding, and the justice that we will fight for.”
In January 2021 it was revealed that 221 calls alleging abuse in British gymnastics had been received on a special hotline set up by the NSPPC. More than half of these calls were considered so serious they have resulted in a referral to the Police or Social Services.
This helpline we set up in July 2020 to provide free, confidential support and guidance to anyone involved with gymnastics with safeguarding concerns, however at the end of February this helpline will close.
As a result of the above-mentioned abuse, understandably these gymnasts may have suffered and continue to suffer with depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
In addition, there are more than likely, many other gymnasts who continue to suffer in silence and have not yet found the strength to report matters. This may be due to fear of repercussion as many coaches may be judges in competitions.
Gymnasts are not alone in suffering abuse by their coaches as it is already a matter of public knowledge that victims have also suffered, and continue to suffer, at the hands of football coaches, swimming coaches and tennis coaches to name a few.
Here at Farleys Solicitors, we advise and represent hundreds of clients who have experienced abuse by their Sports Coaches and we are witnessing increasing numbers of victims who approach us daily to seek financial redress for the physical and psychological pain that they have endured as a result of the abuse they have suffered.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of abuse, our team is highly experienced and specialises in speaking directly with victims or their family members in confidence. Call our dedicated phone line on 0330 134 6430 or contact us by email.