A onetime partner of the American pairs figure skater John Coughlin, who killed himself in January as he faced a sexual misconduct investigation, said she had been abused by Coughlin for two years when she was a teenager.
Bridget Namiotka, 29, who was Coughlin’s partner when she was 14 to 17 and he was 18 to 21, became the first person to publicly say Coughlin had sexually abused her. She made the accusation in recent Facebook postings and in an online interview with The Kansas City Star.
“I’m sorry but john hurt at least 10 people including me,” Namiotka wrote on Facebook on Sunday, without naming anyone else. “He sexually abused me for 2 years.” She added, “Someone that’s innocent doesn’t hang himself.”
Coughlin, 33, died in Kansas City, Mo., his hometown, on Jan. 18 after being suspended from skating by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit organization whose primary mission is investigating accusations of sexual misconduct. The investigation of Coughlin included accusations of inappropriate conduct involving minors. At the time, he was the chairman of the athletes’ commission for the International Skating Union and a television commentator for the sport.
Coughlin called the allegations against him “unfounded” in a Jan. 7 email to USA Today.
SafeSport has said it ended its investigation after Coughlin’s death. It is unclear how many people had accused him of abuse, but Namiotka wrote: “It happened to me, and he hurt a lot of girls. Think about the victims.”
In correspondence with The Kansas City Star via Facebook, Namiotka wrote: “My hope is my story will change and impact the skating world in a positive way. He did sexual abuse me for two years. He was four years older than me.”
She told the newspaper that she would have come forward sooner but that she had been in trauma therapy, without access to the internet.
From 2004 to 2007, Namiotka and Coughlin twice finished fourth at the world junior championships and were ninth at the senior level of the 2007 United States championships. With other partners, Coughlin won national pairs titles in 2011 and 2012.
Tara Modlin, who was Coughlin’s agent, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. In a text message to USA Today, she called Namiotka “unstable” and said reporters should talk to Coughlin’s other skating partners.
John Manly, the lawyer who represents Namiotka and two other women who say Coughlin abused them, told The Associated Press that Namiotka had spoken out after months of “mistreatment by U.S. Figure Skating and Coughlin supporters,” who he said created an impression that Coughlin’s accusers were “crazy and making it up.” He said U.S. Figure Skating, the national governing body, had engaged in victim shaming.
In response to a request for comment, U.S. Figure Skating released a statement that did not directly address Namiotka’s Facebook comments or Manly’s criticism of the organization.
“Athlete safety and well-being continue to be a top priority of U.S. Figure Skating,” the statement said. “We fully support all victims of sexual abuse and misconduct and encourage anyone who either has been abused or suspects abuse or misconduct to report it to local law enforcement, the U.S. Center for SafeSport or U.S. Figure Skating.”
Source: The New York Times