While we prepare for our next round of interviews, I just wanted to take a few moments to summarize what has brought us to this point.
As a concept, the project which would eventually become Coached into Silence began several years ago. At the time I had naively envisioned it as an objectively journalistic, detached “issue film” exploring the sexual abuse of boys within the world of organized sports. When the subject matter is so under-discussed and the stakes so high, such a documentary could have still had value. Anything that raises awareness can aid prevention. Anything that lets those who have suffered these abuses know that they are not alone can provide a small measure of support.
We began our research process in the Fall of 2009. The deeper we found ourselves buried in the thousands and thousands of cases, the more we had to face the following disturbing fact: No matter how many cases you would find—90% of these abuses will never be “cases” at all. The fact that we can even read about a report of child sexual abuse already makes it a rare exception to the rule. As we delved farther into the reasons for that statistic, we began a series of interviews with many of the leading experts on the subject. Psychological & legal experts, those at the vanguard of prevention, support and advocacy…all of whom played a part in opening our eyes to facets of the issue that we had never known existed.
We were determined to represent the full scope of this issue. These abuses occur in every sport, across all levels of sport, and so we will be including survivors who played in the smallest town little leagues to those who eventually made their name in the professional ranks. There are no boundaries or barriers that guarantee a child is protected from falling prey to someone in a position of power intent on exploiting their access to children. “At risk” urban public schools and leagues are short of all resources, including those which would provide safeguards for children, while elite preparatory academies have the money and influence to protect the facade of their “pristine” reputations.
From the cracked asphalt of inner city leagues blighted by poverty and neglect, to the immaculately manicured fields of private bucolic Ivy League feeder schools. Once you have scratched the surface, you have to go all the way.
As our research continued, we began to reach out to those who had been directly affected by these crimes. Men and boys, their parents and loved ones. There was nothing to be gained for them personally by opening these wounds and speaking out. Their hope is that by opening their lives to us others may be helped, may even be spared the nightmares that they have endured.
As these conversations continued, the original ‘detached’ vision of Coached into Silence began to fade as the project became more and more personal with each passing moment. As I began to meet these courageous people, as I talked to them for hours, the emotional roller-coaster rumbled ahead. One moment appalled at the crimes themselves and then outraged at the injustices that too often followed. In the next moment, I would find myself completely awestruck by the courage of these survivors.
Though the conversations were painful, I felt safe sandbagged behind my role as “filmmaker”. It wasn’t long before each crack in their voice began to bring about cracks in my own armor. I’d sit with the articles & notes from these pre-interviews, I’d discuss them at length with m’lady and lead researcher. I’d sit silently by myself, taking inventory of my emotional and physical state, becoming aware of the knot in my stomach and I would ask myself “What are you resisting?”
During the next phone conversation with a young man who had been the victim of a serial molesting coach who left at least a hundred wounded children in his wake, the knot in my stomach returned. Exactly what I had been resisting revealed itself once and for all.
I felt like a fraud.
How dare I ask these people to reveal these stories, their darkest days, their darkest secrets, when I had chosen not to include the story I know best of all?
From the moment I chose to include my story as the thread that will tie all of these disparate stories together Coached into Silence has taken on a life of it’s own. The first step in that direction was a doozie….