With Survivor Trinea Gonczar and producer Dr. Steven Ungerleider, and ShePower Sport Cofounders Dr. Katharina Grimm & Yoko Dozono
On Saturday, January 9th, 2021 we hosted our second event in our Critical Issues in Women’s Sport series. Dr. Steven Ungerleider and Larry Nassar survivor Trinea Gonczar took questions about the documentary At The Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal, the prevalence of sexual abuse in sport and recommendations for those who have or may encounter it in the future.
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Watch Our Heart-to-Hearts Here
At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal is an investigative documentary chronicling the lives affected by the sexual abuse of Larry Nassar, a doctor of osteopathy, national medical coordinator of USA Gymnastics for almost two decades, and assistant professor at Michigan State University. The revelations in the criminal case and court proceedings shook the sports world in 2017.
Key Learnings from the discussion
What is grooming and why do athletes and parents need to know?
The explanation below is from the At the Heart of Gold Discussion Guide:
Grooming is a deliberate process by which an offender gradually draws a victim into a sexual relationship and then shrouds that relationship in secrecy. The perpetrator may coerce the victim to maintain that secrecy by alluding to dire consequences should they be found out. At the same time, the offender may work to fill roles within the victim’s family, making themselves a trusted authority figure and valued friend. These behaviors make it difficult to identify the abuse as it is happening, because the offender establishes themselves as a prominent, friendly, respectable, and even integral part of families and communities. In doing so, the perpetrator makes it tricky for a child to understand they are being abused, because they view this person as a role model or mentor. In cases where the child reports abuse, the surrounding adults often react with disbelief, because the offender has done such an effective job of embedding themselves within families, workplaces, schools, athletic leagues, faith organizations, or other kinds of communities.
Grooming behaviors can include
Special attention, outings, and gifts
Isolating the child from others
Filling the child’s unmet needs
Filling needs and roles within the family
Treating the child as if he or she is older than they actually are
Gradually crossing physical boundaries, and becoming increasingly intimate/sexual
Use of secrecy, blame, and threats to maintain control
There are many online resources where you can learn more about protecting yourself or your child, identifying suspicious behaviours, and supporting survivors.
Some examples are:
About Dr. Steven Ungerleider
Dr. Steven Ungerleider is an award-winning author of six books, including Faust’s Gold. He completed his undergraduate studies in psychology at the University of Texas, Austin, where he also competed as a collegiate gymnast.
Trained as a clinician, Ungerleider earned his post-doctorate in evaluation research. He was part of an international team of researchers to examine the East German doping files. This work resulted in his book, “Faust’s Gold: Inside the East German Doping Machine,” which received significant international attention and accolades.
Prior to the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, Ungerleider was appointed to the International Society for Olympic Historians. He has served as a founding trustee at Global Sports Development (GSD), which encourages mentoring and fair play at all levels. Ungerleider has also served on the education and ethics committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency and is on the national advisory panel of the American Psychological Association.
In 2009, Ungerleider co-founded the Texas Program in Sports and Media at the University of Texas, Austin. This program houses the largest repository of sports research material, including a major International Olympic collection. In 2015, Dr. Ungerleider and his colleague David Ulich founded Sidewinder Films. This production company is the media arm of The Foundation for Global Sports Development.
“At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal” debuted in the Spring of 2019. Ungerleider wrote and co-produced this documentary film along with colleague David Ulich for HBO. This documentary, which aired May 3, 2019, gives voice to the survivors who experienced abuses by former Olympic gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar. With detailed archival footage and first-person interviews, the film “serves as an indictment of the systematic consumption of the labor of young women for the benefit of powerful adults and a corrupt institution.” The film made its debut at Tribeca Film Festival in April 2019 to much critical acclaim. In April of 2020, it was awarded an Emmy for its research and social impact.