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Sexual Abuse on the Circuit

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  • Sexual Abuse on the Circuit

    IÂ’ve been thinking about this subject for a long time, and I will admit, it is a hard one to broach.

    Sexual abuse comes in a myriad of shapes and sizes and forms – but it is always about power: the power of one person over another. Generally, that is older male over younger female, but it can be older male over younger female, older female over younger male or younger female. Generally the victim fells helpless and guilty and has no clue of where to turn. Often s/he is not believed, even by her own parents. Or s/he feels so embarrassed and rotten about herself and so guilty, that she doesn’t believe her parents will believe.

    Case in point: There was a trainer indicted by the Morris County Grand Jury here in NJ for sexually abusing his underage female students. According to the reports, he told them they would never be allowed to ride again if they told their parents. He told them their parents would never believe them over him. Thank God for the one student who spoke up, and the others who joined her!

    This should NEVER happen. That trainer should NEVER be allowed NEAR young women again – and certainly not in a trainer capacity. The AHSA, as well as all local associations should permanately ban him from taking part in any equine activities – if he is ever allowed to leave jail. That is my not so humble opinion. And, by the way, it is illegal to have sex with someone who is underage. It is called RAPE.

    My real concern is the victims – are we doing anything to help those who are victimized? Can we set up a support system? Are you parents aware of people who are listed on your various states' Sex Offenders site? (email me) Should these people have access to our young riders - especialy as trainers? What can we do to prevent this?

    Unfortunately, IMHO, society, in its attempt to safeguard the belief of innocent until proven guilty – a very important part of our society – has made the victims of sexual abuse also to be victims of the system. In order to put an offender behind bars, you have to have the strength to be smeared though the mud. And that is hard. Very hard – it is often easier to just move away and go the other direction. Avoid the offender.

    But, that only puts others at risk – so, please, if you find yourself in this position, get help, file charges, and get more help. Starting right here, if need be. You are right to act, and even more right to put that creep – whoever it is – out of business.

    Anyone who needs to is welcome to email me personally for all the support they need.


    [This message has been edited by Weatherford (edited 05-16-2000).]
    co-author of 101 Jumping Exercises & The Rider's Fitness Program; Soon to come: Dead Ringer - a tale of equine mystery and intrique! Former Moderator!
  • Original Poster

    #2
    IÂ’ve been thinking about this subject for a long time, and I will admit, it is a hard one to broach.

    Sexual abuse comes in a myriad of shapes and sizes and forms – but it is always about power: the power of one person over another. Generally, that is older male over younger female, but it can be older male over younger female, older female over younger male or younger female. Generally the victim fells helpless and guilty and has no clue of where to turn. Often s/he is not believed, even by her own parents. Or s/he feels so embarrassed and rotten about herself and so guilty, that she doesn’t believe her parents will believe.

    Case in point: There was a trainer indicted by the Morris County Grand Jury here in NJ for sexually abusing his underage female students. According to the reports, he told them they would never be allowed to ride again if they told their parents. He told them their parents would never believe them over him. Thank God for the one student who spoke up, and the others who joined her!

    This should NEVER happen. That trainer should NEVER be allowed NEAR young women again – and certainly not in a trainer capacity. The AHSA, as well as all local associations should permanately ban him from taking part in any equine activities – if he is ever allowed to leave jail. That is my not so humble opinion. And, by the way, it is illegal to have sex with someone who is underage. It is called RAPE.

    My real concern is the victims – are we doing anything to help those who are victimized? Can we set up a support system? Are you parents aware of people who are listed on your various states' Sex Offenders site? (email me) Should these people have access to our young riders - especialy as trainers? What can we do to prevent this?

    Unfortunately, IMHO, society, in its attempt to safeguard the belief of innocent until proven guilty – a very important part of our society – has made the victims of sexual abuse also to be victims of the system. In order to put an offender behind bars, you have to have the strength to be smeared though the mud. And that is hard. Very hard – it is often easier to just move away and go the other direction. Avoid the offender.

    But, that only puts others at risk – so, please, if you find yourself in this position, get help, file charges, and get more help. Starting right here, if need be. You are right to act, and even more right to put that creep – whoever it is – out of business.

    Anyone who needs to is welcome to email me personally for all the support they need.


    [This message has been edited by Weatherford (edited 05-16-2000).]
    co-author of 101 Jumping Exercises & The Rider's Fitness Program; Soon to come: Dead Ringer - a tale of equine mystery and intrique! Former Moderator!

    Comment


    • #3
      This is an important topic and not just for riders! Whenever we entrust our children to another adult, we must do everything we can to ensure that they are safe. That includes safe from any kind of abuse, verbal, physical and certainly sexual. We, as parents, have to take the time to listen to our kids-sometimes they talk in circles. Look for any changes in behavior. Are there new friends(that make you feel funny), are they overly angry or quiet or just acting in a way that makes you think that something is wrong? We all want things to be wonderful for our kids, so sometimes we try to look past odd behavior by thinking it's a phase or growing pains. It might be, but it might not. Ask your child direct questions if you are concerned-it lets them know you will believe them. Also, pop in and out of lessons or other situations where they are left with the other adult. You will have a better idea of what is going on that way. Finally, I do not listen to gossip, but if you hear something about the behavior of any adult who has contact with your child, be alert. Watch the way that person interacts with kids and other adults. Trust your gut feelings! No one wants to hear bad news, but if you don't hear about your children's problems, you can't help them find a solution.


      [This message has been edited by jch (edited 05-15-2000).]

      Comment


      • #4
        Weatherford and all help me answer this question.
        We have riders trainers and ect. baned by the AHSA for abuse to the horses, but everyday at the barn or shows we are sourounded by sex ofenders. yet there is a list of riders baned for abuseing there horses but the proper background checks have not been taken to weed out the ofenders when hired. Why is this. Why don't we have a list. Why do we tolerate people like this? How can we as a group develope something to aware riders and parents of the posable problems that might ocur. We have backgroung checks when we get a job in a larger business so why are people not makeing a list for the parents. If anyone would like to make it known to me or weatherford of people that you would want to be put on such list please let us know. No person neads to walk into a trap. We nead to bring these people to the surface. Even if it hurts there carear.They should not represent this sport in anyway and should not have the abilaty to hurt more. Parents, Students Trainers lets take a stand and make it known we will not stand for any of this trash.
        \"I\'m going to go see a horse about a man\" - Unknown

        Comment


        • #5
          A VERY important topic. Thank you for bringing it up, Weatherford. There is also a site that gives you a link to whatever sex offender list each state is providing on line. E-mail me for the address for that site. It is so important that parents be as aware as possible about who their children have the possibility of associating with at the shows that they attend, and, even at home.

          [This message has been edited by LOUISE (edited 05-16-2000).]
          If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
          Desmond Tutu

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            CTT - that is an excellent question. When I approached a member of the AHSA staff regarding the person here in NJ, I was told to wait until he was convicted, then send the info to the AHSA, and they would take action accordingly. Unfortunately, getting that info has not been easy.

            Since Nancy Jaffer broke the original story,maybe she can help us? If anyone knows how to reach her, please contact me! Thanks.
            co-author of 101 Jumping Exercises & The Rider's Fitness Program; Soon to come: Dead Ringer - a tale of equine mystery and intrique! Former Moderator!

            Comment


            • #7
              Weatherford, thank you for broaching this, as difficult as it may have been. I hope the young woman who posted her story on the drugs/alcohol thread will repost it here, as it may do her and many others much good.

              IMO, abuse--or sometimes, misuse--of power is at the bottom of many of the issues discussed here.
              Tinwhistle Farm

              Comment


              • #8
                A quick PRACTICAL story to warn parents of the realities: when my daughter was about 7, her school bus driver was arrested for abusing two other girls from another school. When I had "the talk" again with her and reminded her never to let strangers do or say whatever, her reply was, "but Mom, he's not a stranger - he's my driver." What a blunt reminder of how careful and precise we must be!

                One other situation: while stable employees in many cases are long-term and wonderful, in some others they are short-term and very transient, especially at shows. I have a very hard and very fast rule that my daughter will NEVER be in the barn alone without a parent or trainer or two other specified employees that I know and trust!

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have some really good information for all on this topic. Maybe I should say I have first hand experience in this. It's not even having the victims talk to someone about it. Parents, friends, and relatives need to learn how to read a problem WITHOUT words being said. They need to read how the person is acting. In my case, I acted out really bad. I ran away for days at a time. I stole from my parents and stores ( I was never caught though, even though I wanted to be ). I lied about everything, I drank and did drugs. I fought with everyone about everything. The sadest part is that I didn't own a horse, so this had nothing to do with being at the barn.

                  There were 4 tragedies:
                  I was screwed by the system. Someone didn't notify that he was released early. He only served 2 years of a 12 year sentence.
                  He was a priest, then turned ex-priest, who lived in our house.
                  It was happening to my sister as well, for over 16 years.
                  And last but not least, I started doing all those bad things around the young age of 9.

                  My best advice would have to be, pay attention!!!!!

                  There ARE signs. You just need to see them. If you have a person, no matter the age nor gender, suddenly strat acting totally different. They could be either outspoken, then all of a sudden become really soft spoken. On the other hand, you could have someone who is what is considered a "good kid", become a real trouble maker.
                  These are just 2 of the most common signs. Open your eyes. Let them know that you are there for them, and you will NEVER judge them. Make them feel safe, and maybe they will open up
                  *****************************
                  Instead of Save a Horse, Ride a cowboy......Ride a horse, Dump the COwboy.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The barn I used to board at is the nicest facility in the area, and the way my old trainer got it was that it was a forclosure. However, it has a dark side. The guy who owned it before was locked up for molesting the male students. My trainer has changed the name of the place, and it doesn't happen much anymore, but they still every once in awhile have suspicions of the place. But after they realize it's under new ownership as well as a new name, they are fine. The first couple of years were hard though. But they have built a really good reputation now. Thank goodness for whoever spoke up in that situation! I don't know the details, but I guess it was a really bad case. Especially in the middle of a small farming community!
                    Is minic a rinne bromach gioblach capall cumasach
                    An awkward colt often becomes a beautiful horse .

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Unfortunately, IMHO, society, in its attempt to safeguard the belief of innocent until proven guilty – a very important part of our society – has made the victims of sexual abuse also to be victims of the system. In order to put an offender behind bars, you have to have the strength to be smeared though the mud. And that is hard. Very hard – it is often easier to just move away and go the other direction. Avoid the offender.[/B]<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                      I could not agree more that no child (or adult) should have to go through sexual abuse or the system abuse that often follows an accusation. Parents should take all steps possible to safeguard their children. But the "innocent until proven guilty" belief is just as important, and strikes a note with me because of a situation in my town. A jr. high teacher was accused of "improper touching" by several of his students. The students were all friends and all achievers. The teacher had been in the county schools for almost 30 years. Because the accusers were all A-students, their initial statements were taken as truth. The teacher was immediately removed from the school while the matter was being investigated, and the case was heavily reported in the local news, effectively destroying the teacher's career. No problem you say? Anyone accused of such a thing should be destroyed? The kids lied. They were angry at the teacher for reprimanding them, and they got together and fabricated the story.

                      So when you as a parent are investigating,
                      focus on fact and not innuendo. Leaving soapbox now ...
                      Proud adopter of Win
                      http://www.defhr.org
                      Days End Farm Horse Rescue
                      Protection for Horses - Education for People

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Exactly what I am afraid of, RescueMom, and why I stated "a very important part of our society" and believe that innocent until proven guilty is critical.

                        The balance is very, very difficult - and critically important. Perhaps keeping the press out is one option - I really can't amswer that.

                        However, I also believe there is a serious need in our sport to HEAR and help the victims - and I also believe there are more out there than anyone wants to admit. The long term effects of child sexual abuse far far outweigh anything. And the proof may be more in the behavioral problems others have mentioned than in the accusations.

                        Thanks for your balance, RescueMom.
                        co-author of 101 Jumping Exercises & The Rider's Fitness Program; Soon to come: Dead Ringer - a tale of equine mystery and intrique! Former Moderator!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          This is such an important subject, and one that our industry wants to turn a blind eye to. Our NF ie: AHSA, needs to be more involved. From what I have been told, they will not get involved. IMHO it probably has to do with legalities, but what happened to morals?

                          One of the news shows, 60 Minutes, 48 hours or Twenty Twenty just did a piece on children being out of countrol. How bout parenting? This is a lost art. Peoples lives are so busy, they want to be their kids friend, and they don't have time. It is such a loose knit structure, that no one is in charge. More like the rise and fall of the Roman empire than anything else.

                          It won't go away, till we do something about it. Will step down now, thank you....

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            This is a very very scary issue, one which is all to common- and not just in riding. When I was in 7th grade I was switched to a different school- a week before the school opened a teacher from it was arrested for molesting a teenage boy. My mom and I have met this teacher at an open house and liked him - and I would have had him for my firsth term math class! Scary huh? I also have a trainer/friend who used to teach an occasional lesson at a certain barn in NJ. Then she found out that the 'manager' was molesting female students and was able to help close the barn down. I do not know what happened to the trainer though.

                            I agree that you can never be to careful...ever! - and - just b/c someone is a wonderful trainer does NOT mean you can necessarily trust your kids with them!

                            Sarah
                            Sarah ( & Regal)

                            what doesn't kill you makes you stronger -
                            unless it breaks your heart first

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Usually we cannot name people on this site because it is hearsay or gossip. However, if there is an official, competitor, or employee of a horse show (someone above mentioned the Florida circuit, for instance), who has been legally convicted and can be corroborated by public, reliable sources (such as a state sex offender list), couldn't he or she (shouldn't he or she) be mentioned???? I think so.

                              If there is somebody such as this, within easy reach of thousands of children, I implore you, identify this person. I believe it is your duty, as long as you document your source.
                              Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. - Gandhi

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                It certainly is a problem- especially at the older Jr levels, where they'r ending high school, not sure of who we are, or what we want, extremely vulnerable. The old director of riding at Stonleigh Burnham (who I believe is now in Jail..) was convicted of having affairs with students- some who were only freshman. A huge amount of his riders "Fell to his charm" and were raped, etc by him. Its scarry to think- I'm going off to private school next year, adn you really are out from under your parents wing. And only so much faith and responsibility can be l;aid onto the hands of the trainer taking them down to Florida, or even out of state for the weekend. Its scarry, and our society certainly reflects why the fear exists.

                                The careers of the people who have been discovered were ended- as they should have been. But, being a teenager living in this world, the awareness level is so low, and things like that do happen- fear is created to such a high point, that no one wants to do anything.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I certainly agree that sexual abuse is a significant problem of which we must be aware and vigilent, and that the people who engage in such abuse should be kept away from activities with children. However, I have a somewhat different perspective about accusing people publicly and "naming names," more in line with what Rescuemom posted.

                                  It is such an emotional issue that people tend to react without considering that the facts might not justify that response. There are too many unfounded accusations, like rescue mom mentioned. One town, in a kind of Salem Witch Hunt panic, charged dozens of people of molesting children, some of whom were convicted and spent years in prison, before it was revealed that the police investigator who instigated the hysteria was overzealous and convinced his own stepchild to lie, and the social worker who met with the children in fact unconsciously conditioned them and led them into saying incriminating things -- as was apparent on the videotapes made of the sessions. The convictions have been overturned, but not before many lives were ruined.

                                  I admit my perspective is tempered by my personal experience with one individual. I had a very good friend and colleague (not a horse person) who ended up charged and convicted for one incident in which he made the mistake of soliciting the wrong person in a bar. He was a closeted homosexual and was unable to reconcile his private life and sexuality with his career, and those pressures led him to make a single sad mistake, for which he paid dearly. A long story, but my friend ended up beaten up and his house set on fire. He was one of the finest people I have ever known, but if you only looked at what appeared in the public record, without knowing the facts behind it, you would not know that. He has since passed away, and his friends miss him terribly.

                                  The bottom line, in my opinion, is that anyone who feels they are faced with such a situation should make sure they find out the underlying facts before trashing someone's life publicly, where immeasurable harm can be done. Just make sure you know the facts and evaluate them, then act as conscience dictates.
                                  "I don't want to sound like a broken record here, but why is it that a woman will forgive homicidal behavior in a horse, yet be highly critical of a man for leaving the toilet seat up?" Dave Barry

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    That former director of riding at SB is running a (horse) business as we speak in the VT area. I saw the ad for the 'grand opening' in the peddlar or some such local publication. why the wife stayed with him I don't know but I hope he got his many "issues" under control before diving back into a profession saturated with adolescent females.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Perhaps if there are worried parents here, people can exhange information via email. I think that's the point of the sexual offender registration system... to inform parents of minor children, not to broadcast past convictions for the world to see.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        As well as Weatherford, rescuemom and Portia deserve thanks for the balance that their well-expressed points of view provide.

                                        A few comments which I hope will add to the discussion of this topic, and other serious problems discussed on this board:

                                        The equestrian community is composed of horses and PEOPLE; and people will do what they do wherever they are...but it is a very self-contained community, and it sometimes seems to me that methods of dealing with problems concerning horses and/or ethics and/or abuse of various kinds often (NOT, repeat, NOT always!) fall into one of two extreme categories--the "everything is fine, some people are crazy/jealous/negative/busybodies, let's preserve a dignified silence" attitude; and the "all rumor and gossip has value, everyone with a different approach is wrong/misguided/corrupt, let's jump to conclusions without facts, be totally subjective and emotional, and vent without regard to the consequences" reaction to events. (None of us will recognize ourselve in either of these two groups, of course! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img])

                                        It is very difficult to hold a measured, fair, and productive discussion which treats both the members of the equestrian community AS WELL AS the person/s under discussion with compassion AND with concern for effective and necessary positive actions or changes in the status quo.

                                        I personally firmly believe that people who have made mistakes, of any kind, can truly change; and that if (repeat, IF) they do, they should be recognized as having done so, their growth as individuals should be acknowledged, and they should be allowed to put the past behind them. I also wish to emphasize that this may not always mean we can ignore their mistakes, and the implications these mistakes may have for both the equestrian community and the individual/s.

                                        Finally, if people can get up in arms about the lack of respect for our sport implied by wearing a schooling helmet rather than a velvet hard hat, then shouldn't we be equally outraged at what we permit or endorse vis-a-vis treatment of both horses and people in our community?

                                        Not to mention the frequent violation of the point of the whole thing, which, IMHO, is horsemanship and sportsmanship, the spirit of training and of regulated competition, and not merely the letter or appearance of the method or the goal.

                                        The problem, of course, is determining exactly what constitutes such an offense, and what the correct response and/or course of action should be. I hope our collective wisdom is equal to the task. If we hope to do good, let us be scrupulously careful and just, lest we ourselves make damaging mistakes which cannot be undone.
                                        Tinwhistle Farm

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