Abuse reports rise after Olympian’s bombshell

The number of reports of child sex abuse more than doubled in Sweden in the days following revelations by former Olympic high jumper Patrik Sjöberg that he was molested by his late coach and stepfather.

Abuse reports rise after Olympian's bombshell

Independent support group Children’s Rights in Society (Barnens Rätt i Samhället – BRIS) said it received 38 phone calls relating to child sexual abuse in the three days following Sjöberg’s harrowing account of his treatment at the hands of national team coach Viljo Nousiainen. BRIS took 19 hotline calls in the same period last year.

“I’ve said it all along: even if I only manage to get one child to speak out, it will be worth it,” Sjöberg, 46, told newspaper Aftonbladet.

BRIS secretary general Göran Harnesk said he welcomed Sjöberg’s decision to go public with his story after decades of silence.

“It’s important that a famous person dares to speak out about this,” Harnesk told news agency TT. “That generally results in others feeling they’re not the only ones affected.”

Nousiainen, who died in 1999, had a relationship with Patrik Sjöberg’s mother for many years.

In the very frank autobiography ‘What you didn’t see’ (‘Det du inte såg’), Sjöberg, who won the World Championships in Rome in 1987 and holds three Olympic medals, tells of how Nousiainen soon became the father figure his eleven-year-old self had been lacking.

Nousiainen gave the rising star his full attention and lots of praise when he did something well.

But Sjöberg also remembered waking on a number of occasions with his sheets and pyjamas pulled off. He said he confronted Nousianen several times but his stepfather always denied any wrongdoing.

When Nousiainen separated from Sjöberg’s mother, Sjöberg chose to go with his stepfather, a decision he described as “a no-brainer” if he wanted to be the world’s best high jumper.

When Sjöberg turned fifteen, he decided that the abuse had to stop. Nousiainen tried a few more times but Sjöberg made it clear that he would go to the police if it happened again.

Sjöberg doesn’t think he was the first and he knows he wasn’t the last among Nousiainen’s victims.

Another Swedish sports profile to come forward after Sjöberg’s revelation was athletics coach Yannick Tregaro, who said he was abused by Nousiainen from the age of twelve or thirteen.

According to Tregaro, he was having a rough time at home and was turning more and more to his coach for support. As he got older he realised that what was going on was not strictly above board.

Tregaro said he was pleased that Sjöberg had come forward with his revelation.

The former world champion explained that he had never told anyone about how

his coach repeatedly used sports therapy as an excuse to get him naked and

molest him until he two years ago was talking with former Norwegian youth

champion Christian Skaar Thomassen and discovered that he too had been abused

by Nousiainen.

Sjöberg’s and Tregaro’s revelations have rocked the Swedish athletics establishment. Many worked closely with Nousiainen without ever realizing what was going on.

The Swedish Sports Confederation (Riksidrottsförbundet) said that it was taking the matter of child abuse very seriously.

According to chairwoman Karin Mattson-Weijber, the Confederation has recently issued stricter guidelines as to how individuals and sports clubs should act with regards to abuse.

It has also demanded to be given the right to carry out background checks for sports leaders, something that today is practice prior to hiring schoolteachers and preschool staff.

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South-west German town rocked by child sex abuse allegations

A scout leader in the small Baden-Württemberg town of Staufen is being investigated for alleged sexual abuse. The man is said to have abused four victims “up to 400 times”.

South-west German town rocked by child sex abuse allegations
The picturesque town of Staufen, where the abuse is said to have occurred. Image: DPA

The mother of one of the alleged victims brought a complaint in February, telling police that her son was sexually abused by a volunteer caretaker when aged between nine and eleven.

DPA reports that three other victims, also from the scout group, have been identified. The police have set up a 12-person task force to investigate the abuses. The suspect, a 41-year-old man from the town, has been arrested and taken into custody. 

Read: Police failures probed in the largest sexual abuse scandal in German history

Read: Catholic priests abused thousands in Germany

The man was previously the subject of a sexual abuse investigation for alleged activities between 2004 and 2007, but was later acquitted due to a lack of evidence. 

The abuse of two of the alleged victims is said to have taken place between 2009 and 2013, while the other two are said to have been abused between 2014 and 2018. 

'Very manipulative'

Police suggest that the man was “very manipulative” in abusing his power as a scout leader, spending time with the children and giving them gifts before engaging in the sexual activity.

Investigators allege that the man told the children the acts were “completely normal”. 

“We cannot rule out the possibility that there are more victims”, the investigators told DPA. So far more than 100 children have been interviewed. 

“We’ve tried to build a bridge between ourselves and the possibly traumatized children and adolescents,” said Mathias Kaiser, the head of the investigation team. 

“Not everyone is ready to cross this bridge and open up.”

A second set of allegations from the same scout group

While early indications are that the accused acted alone, another man from the scout group is also being investigated in relation to separate abuse allegations.

In that case, a female victim has come forward to indicate that she had been abused seven years ago while aged between 13 and 14.

Police have indicated that the second suspect is currently ‘at large’, with investigators unaware of his whereabouts. 

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