Holding gymnastics to account – why one alleged victim of sexual abuse is speaking out

As British Gymnastics grapples with the fallout of the Whyte review, a former gymnast alleging years of sexual assault four decades ago believes children were failed then – and complainants are now

‘Istayed only a short while in the little garden above what was once the basement of horror, but it was long enough to get what I went to collect. Together, we – me and the part of me that had been left down in that basement for so long – drove to the beach and, at last, with deep and heavy sobs that only very recently have begun to properly come out, I flung each and every gymnastics medal I had ever won, one by one, into the sea. I didn’t ever want to see them again. I never looked at them anyway. They were beyond tarnished. I needed no extra reminders of that chapter of my life.”

It has taken Emma Webb (not her real name) 40 years to speak publicly about the abuse that she alleges has crippled most of her 52 years. She claims the abuse started not long after she had started at primary school, and went on until she was 12 when she managed to escape the clutches of her alleged abusers. She says her experience has led to years of battling complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and thousands of pounds spent on therapy. Webb has connected with others who allege they were abused by the same man. She says they lean on each other and are in contact with others who identify as victims of abuse within gymnastics from around the world. Webb is ready to talk, but she also isn’t. She skirts and dances around the details of the abuses she says she suffered. She swings close, then veers away.

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