Woman says sexual abuse claims against top swim coach ignored for 17 years
Debbie Wade says she was abused by an elite swimming coach over 40 years ago.
The abuse started in 1979 when she was 10 years old. The alleged perpetrator, described as 'Mr X', was 13 at the time. He was the son of Wade's female swim coach at a Durban swimming club.
Wade says she was groomed and abused as a child swimmer for six years until she was 16.
Another woman referred to as 'Susan' has also come forward about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of Mr X.
In 2003, Wade told the then president of KwaZulu-Natal Aquatics about the abuse but nothing came of it.
She tried to report Mr X at the Westville police station in 2004, but she says police dismissed her.
With the support of the Women and Men Against Sexual Abuse (WMACA) protection agency, Wade is pursuing legal action against Mr X.
She reported Mr X to Swimming South Africa (SSA), which conducted its own internal probe this year. However, Wade says SSA won't release the findings of the investigation.
Wade says she struggled with guilt, shame and confusion for years before first deciding to speak out about her ordeal in the early 2000s.
She sought help from a psychologist and later discovered that her psychologist was treating two young girls who had allegedly been abused by the same Mr X too.
That's when Wade decided to take action. But her attempts to expose Mr X fell on deaf ears for nearly 20 years.
I was 34 at that time, and she was treating a 12 and 13-year-old girl who and suffered the same abuse at his hands.Debbie Wade
I realised that it was not only me, 24 years later, but Mr X was still continuing this pattern of abuse. That has traumatised me.Debbie Wade
She says it has been a nightmare telling her story for the past 17 years, trying to find someone who would listen to her.
I've been telling this story for a long time, I just haven't been heard.Debbie Wade
There's a perception that it's something that I just decided to come forward to talk about 40 years on.Debbie Wade
Wade says there is a culture that allows predation to thrive in sports.
She says parents, guardians and sports administrators need to safeguard children from abuse.
People say that it takes a village to raise a child, well I say it takes a village to abuse one as well.Debbie Wade
We need to break the silence around abuse. There's no shame. What these people do to young children - they're the one's that should be carrying the shame.Debbie Wade
It was a very confusing time for a young child. That's why we need to have strong processes in place to make sure that this type of abuse doesn't happen. That's what I'm calling for.Debbie Wade
Listen to Debbie Wade tell her story:
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