Former Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors alleged in an essay online that her former coach, Sean Hutchison, had "groomed" her for years. The swimmer said she suffered years “pain, trauma, horror, and abuse” at the hands of Hutchison.
Kukors wrote an emotionally charged statement on Wednesday that made the allegations against her former coach public. According to court documents that were filed this week in Washington state, this abuse and exploitation lasted several years. Kukors told Department of Homeland Security investigators that he also took thousands of sexually explicit photographs of her while she was a minor.
Hutchison was Kukors' coach since she was 13 years old. "The grooming started immediately," she wrote in the essay. "Each of us had to shake his hand after every practice. A simple handshake, but it was a first step; contact." The former world champion swimmer said Hutchison started sexually abusing her when she was just 16.
In 2011, USA Swimming went forth with an investigation into the relationship between Kukors and Hutchison after an article was published in the Washington Post. Kukors addressed the inquiry in the essay and said she was only asked a total of 19 questions. “I was scared. I lied. I have never felt more alone in my life,” she wrote. Several weeks later, USA Swimming closed the investigation. They claimed they found no wrongdoings and called rumors against Hutchinson “malicious lies.” Kukors said, “Well, that shut me up real quick.”
Kukors quit swimming after the 2012 Olympics and moved in with Hutchison in Seattle. “I think back on those times now, tearfully asking why no one helped me…why no one stepped in to save me from this monster.” She wrote that Hutchison had "perfected the art of grooming" and she was not even aware that she needed to be saved.
Kukors, now 28, wrote the essay for “the sake of the little girls and boys whose lives and futures hang in the grasp of a horribly powerful and manipulative person," and that "the time for change is now." She wrote, "It’s time to change the way we talk about sexual abuse, the way we respond to sexual abuse, and the way the system understands and prevents sexual abuse. And with all my heart, I hope that each and every abuse victim knows their story matters, it is important, and their voice will be heard whenever and however they choose to use it."
In a statement released by his attorney, Hutchison said, “At no time did I ever abuse Ariana Kukors or do anything with her that was not consensual." Hutchison continued, "I absolutely deny having any sexual or romantic relationship with her before she was old enough to legally make those decisions for herself. Prior to that time, I did nothing to ‘groom’ her."
Kukors' statement comes just weeks after more than 150 Olympic gymnasts came forward with details of abuse by Larry Nassar, the former team doctor.