"I just want him to know"
August 29, 2011 5:51 AM   Subscribe

Tennis player and coach Bob Hewitt is a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame who has held all the men's doubles and mixed doubles Grand Slam titles. Hewitt, who was born in Australia but became a South African citizen by marriage, also captained the 1974 South African Davis Cup champion team. The Boston Globe reports that Hewitt's lengthy coaching career in the US and South Africa has long been accompanied by allegations that Hewitt sexually abused his female students, mostly adolescents but one as young as 10. Hewitt denies the charges.
posted by catlet (13 comments total)

 
Wow. This is so sad. I find Heather's account very credible, especially the fact that these issues really came back to haunt her when her own daughters reached the age when she was sexually assaulted, as that could certanly be a powerful trigger for a victim of sexual abuse.

I can only respect the man who, hearing the rumors against Hewitt early on, spoke with the parents of at least one girl he'd coached and then took steps to prevent Hewitt from coaching young girls ever again. I'm sure some young girls did not want to go public, since Hewitt is famous, they were just starting their careers, and also because they were so young. I'm glad that at least some of the people involved in pro tennis were trying to look out for them however they could.

This is unsufferable, though:

"But John Korff, who was general manager of the Lobsters when Hewitt played for them and now serves as a director at large of the US Tennis Association, expressed displeasure at Conner coming forward.

“Gee, it’s nice of the girl to pop up 35 years later,’’ Korff said. “Give me a break.’’


Even if you personally feel Hewitt was innocent, that's just a disgusting comment to make. Think of the way that kind of attitude could affect other young woman who are being abused and want to come forward! Plus the wording suggests it's the timing than the charges that bother him Korff, which is just messed up.
posted by misha at 6:39 AM on August 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


that's just a disgusting comment to make.

More than disgusting.

Last year, Swedish high-jumper (and former world-record holder) Patrick Sjöberg revealed that he was sexually abused by his trainer beginning when he was 11. Sjöberg didn't reveal the truth until he was 46 when he published his autobiography. Sometimes it takes 35 years.

When challenged on how long it took for him to talk about it (indeed after the man had died), his explanation was pretty simple (I paraphrase): "It messes you up. It's no normal childhood to be sexually abused by an adult."
posted by three blind mice at 7:52 AM on August 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Think of the way that kind of attitude could affect other young woman who are being abused and want to come forward!

I think this is the (unexpressed and maybe even unexamined) purpose of such a comment. It's not so much that Korff is a horrible person who condones or encourages rape and exploitation of children (I mean, he might or might not be); he's a guy who sees a charge against a man he knows and (maybe) likes and who stands for a sport in which Korff is heavily invested. While Korff probably disapproves of rape, what he really wants is for people to not talk about it, because it's upsetting. I think a lot of evil comes out of this understandable human impulse.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:17 AM on August 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


I have a friend who works with female teen tennis players. From what she's told me it's not uncommon for older male coaches to be giant sleazeballs or worse. I have no doubt this is a feature of most, if not all, sporting communities that include young women. The fact is that some humans will take advantage of power imbalances. Thankfully awareness of sexual abuse is becoming more prevalent and young women have more recourses than even a decade ago.
posted by Kattullus at 8:44 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Kattalus this is consistent with my own experience in tennis. If I taught tennis I would refuse to teach underage females, no exceptions.
posted by bukvich at 9:14 AM on August 29, 2011


"I think this is the (unexpressed and maybe even unexamined) purpose of such a comment. It's not so much that Korff is a horrible person who condones or encourages rape and exploitation of children (I mean, he might or might not be); he's a guy who sees a charge against a man he knows and (maybe) likes and who stands for a sport in which Korff is heavily invested. While Korff probably disapproves of rape, what he really wants is for people to not talk about it, because it's upsetting. I think a lot of evil comes out of this understandable human impulse."

Its definitely not new:

"I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
posted by Blasdelb at 9:38 AM on August 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


"I have a friend who works with female teen tennis players. From what she's told me it's not uncommon for older male coaches to be giant sleazeballs or worse. "

Here's the "or worse", from 1993.
posted by true at 10:22 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have no doubt evidence this is a feature of most, if not all, sporting communities that include young women.

TFTFY
posted by sfts2 at 11:02 AM on August 29, 2011


I try not to answer people who comment only with FTFY or its variants, stfs2 (community discussion here) but your comment got under my skin. If you had googled, say, the term sexual abuse sports, you would have found a wealth of evidence. For instance, this brochure for figure skaters, this Seattle Times series and this article from The Guardian's Observer Sport Monthly. Furthermore, you might remember how just a little over a year ago it was revealed by ABC that dozens of swimming coaches had been banned for sexual misconduct in the US. I didn't see the need to cite any of this because it is so easy to find on the internet and there have been several high profile news stories, besides it being fairly obvious to anyone who knows anything about human behavior that sometimes humans take advantage of any power they have to satisfy their urges. Next time you feel the need to glibly dismiss sexual abuse you should at least do a perfunctory Google search.
posted by Kattullus at 11:48 AM on August 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


Thank you Kattullus, from the last article:

"King's lawyer, Jamie Harley, said some of the responsibility belongs to the swimmers' parents whose ambition for their children blinded them to the problem.

'I think Mr. King bears enormous responsibility here, But I think the parents were not minding the store," she said. "I think had they been minding the store – had they been watching what's going on with their own children this opportunity never could have presented itself.'
"

Ugggh
posted by Blasdelb at 3:59 PM on August 29, 2011


And why stop at blaming the parents? I mean, it's also partly the young girls' faults, for being so young and sexy right?
posted by antifuse at 7:12 AM on August 30, 2011


K as long as you promise not to blanketly paint the majority of youth sports coaches as a pedophiles. lol
posted by sfts2 at 4:51 PM on August 30, 2011


I am sorry that this thread:

a) Didn't develop further. I think it is an important link in the chain of gender discrimination and sexual harassment, and I don't think it gets discussed enough.

b) Mostly, if not all, the comments were from men.

c) Got derailed and apparently killed by frivolous denialism.

Yay, us.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:35 AM on August 31, 2011


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