A Coach in Louisville Worked with Kids for 15 Years Despite Allegations of Abuse
In 2003, a popular coach at a Kentucky high school was accused of sexual abuse. Fifteen years later, he is still working around kids.
The grooming by Drew Conliffe described in the KyCIR article is textbook. The abuse suffered by Eric Flynn, and likely others near him, is all too common. Sadly, too, is the fact that this popular coach, well-known in the community, was the one who received the benefit of the doubt over the victim. Despite the fact that other parents in the community apparently saw warning signs, it was ultimately the perpetrator who was believed and not the victim.
This story speaks to the importance of changing culture to stop and prevent sexual abuse. If we lived in a society where victims, especially children, were believed when they came forward, it is likely that Conliffe would not have been able to work around children for another 15 years. If we lived in a culture where sexual assault was understood to be common and not something to be joked about, it is possible that Flynn and other victims would have felt empowered in coming forward and sharing what happened to them, not ashamed. Perhaps then, allegations of abuse would have come into the light and been shared with all instead of needing to be shared anonymously, via windshield-wiper fliers.
Cultural change is slow, but it is happening. As experiences like Flynn’s become shared widely, discussed, and thought about, these stories help uncover the fact that sexual abuse is common, happens everywhere, and has serious, lifelong consequences for victims. Thanks to movements like #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport, more people are becoming aware of sexual assault and what their role can be in changing the culture that allows it to continue. Now, as we seek to find justice for survivors like Flynn, we must be active in our efforts to foster this change.
We all can take steps to help, such as by campaigning to change the statutes of limitation that so often prevent survivors from seeking justice and holding abusers accountable. Or, we can work with local state legislators and school systems to strengthen requirements and processes for background checks for anyone who works with children, whether teacher, coach or priest.
The most important step of all is also the simplest: give the benefit of the doubt to those who come forward, not those accused. This is the best way to change the culture we live in, prevent sexual assault in the future, and support survivors today.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)