Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sweden: As a world champion athlete, I can give a voice to other child abuse victims

Viljo Nousiainen (left) and Patrik Sjöberg
Shortly after releasing my autobiography, in which I spoke about the sexual abuse I had suffered as a child from my athletics coach Viljo Nousiainen, I gave a public reading in Sweden. Afterwards I was approached by a 93-year-old man who had been in the audience, and I will never forget what he told me. “I’m going to read the book, give one to my wife and one each to my children, and then I’m going to tell them what happened to me when I was 10 years old,” he said. “You came out with this in your book. I’ve been ashamed all my life and was ready to take it to the grave, but now I’m going to tell my family.”

It shows there are no time limits on talking about something like this, and that’s one reason why the accounts that were so bravely given by several former footballers late last year are so important in Britain. In my case, I waited 30 years to recount what had happened. Many people have been, and are, in the same situation, so it’s very encouraging to see high-profile athletes come forward and give confidence to others who have suffered similar experiences.

Nousiainen stopped abusing me when I was 14, and after that I tried to forget what happened for many years. But I was an angry kid, and have been angry all my life. I had a successful career in the high jump, winning a World Championships gold and three Olympic medals, but I’ve done things I’m not proud of and wanted to explain why. In my case, I could at least let out my anger through sport, but I have received emails from guys who have ended up in prison – in some cases for killing someone. I’m sure that rage is the result of being abused during childhood.  (more...)


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