Editor’s note: This article discusses emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.
A former Canadian gymnast has spoken out about years of abuse she apparently suffered at the hands of the national gymnastics team’s 2016 coach.
Abby Pearson Spadafora accuses Olympic coach Dave Brubaker and his wife, Elizabeth, of “physically, verbally, psychologically and sexually” abusing her in an open letter published by Global Athlete on Thursday.
“I will no longer be silenced,” Spadafora wrote. “Breaking the silence of my lived experiences of abuse in Canadian gymnastics is a heavy one…it’s time to inform everyone that the type of behaviour I and many others were exposed to was never acceptable and must be stopped.”
Global Athlete has asked to post Canadian Gymnast Abby (Pearson) Spadafora lived experience of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse she endured for years in her sport.
— Global Athlete (@GlobalAthleteHQ) May 26, 2022
In the letter, the former member of Canada’s national gymnastics team accused the Brubakers of forcing her to kiss them to “show the new girls they had to respect” them.
Spadafora said the sexual abuse went further, accusing Dave of climbing into bed and pressing his entire body against hers. She was just 17 years old.
She also claims she experienced fat-shaming and physical assault.
“My male coach would regularly snap the back of my sports bras when I started wearing them,” she wrote. “I was taught that gaining weight and puberty were a bad thing.”
The gymnast says injuries were “rarely taken seriously” and that she was taught to hide the pain. Instead of being treated by a doctor when her toes were split open, Spadafora remembers her coach using surgical glue on the injuries instead.
A lawyer for the Brubakers told Reuters he was unaware of the allegations and declined to comment further.
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Dave has a history of sexual assault allegations. He was suspended by Gymnastics Canada in 2017 after being arrested and charged with sexual crimes. The 2016 Rio Olympics coach was acquitted in 2019 of charges made by a former student regarding alleged incidents between 2000 and 2007.
Spadafora is calling on the federal government to conduct an independent third-party investigation on abuse allegations in the gymnastics community.
“Over 480 athletes have come forward, but still the government has done nothing,” she stated. “Too many survivors continue to suffer because of their lack of action.”
Earlier this month, another Canadian gymnast launched a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging decades of abuse in the sport.
The lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia with incidents spanning from 1978 to the present day.
Gymnastics Canada has yet to respond to Spadafora’s allegations.